I’m currently working with my first client for my writing coach business, Scribbler Coach, and so far it’s been a lot of fun. She is writing a novel based on the fictionalization of her life. Many times, when people tell me they want to write a novel based on their lives, I am a little wary. How many of us truly live in interesting times? However, even in rough form, her story hooked me in right away. I’ve sent off my notes on the first 10,000 words, and can’t wait for the next excerpt.
I have noticed one thing about her writing, and this is something that I’ve often remarked on in works where new writers are basing their story on something very close to them — namely, the narrative lacks description of the characters. Given that the writer already has the full picture of the characters in his/her head –because he/she knows them, has lived with them, is utterly familiar with them — they forget that the rest of us need a clue to build our own picture. Thus, this week’s exercise.
Exercise 10: You are a stranger meeting each of your characters for the first time. You meet them just long enough to gain a first impression (physical) and have a quick conversation (mental/emotional). What is the first thing you notice? What is the last thing? What surprises you when they open their mouths? Do they have any small items or props that show their personality? As we meet them again, and get to know them more thoroughly, which of those immediate impressions will be contradicted or confirmed, and how?
Sketch a quick introductory paragraph for one or more of your characters. What about that first impression clues the reader in to the character’s enduring characteristics? What about the first impression may be false due to the circumstances of the meeting? Help the reader build that picture in his/her head.