Writing exercise

I’m really enjoying reading The Kill Zone, a blog by and for mystery and thriller writers. On Sundays, James Scott Bell has articles that usually include at least one good writing exercise. Today there were several, but this one intrigued me the most:

A question Don likes to ask in his workshops is, “What is something your character would never ever do or say?” Then, find a place for the character do or say that thing. Or at least think it, showing a ferocious inner conflict. Wow. Try that some time and then pick up the pieces of your head.

I started thinking about what each of my characters would never do, and it was actually really revealing about each of them. You can’t define a square without edges, right? Seems I only ever plan out one edge. Finding the other edge of the square was highly interesting.

For example, take Eddie Valor. He’s a retired guitarist for a fantasy metal band (think Nightwish). He’s laid-back, easy going, sensitive, and almost never loses his temper. (Which is good, because the other characters all fall somewhere between C4 and nitroglycerin on the volatile explosive scale.) He’s the one person who doesn’t lose his cool in a crisis.

One thing he would never do is get angry enough to try to kill someone.

Another thing he’d never do is harm an instrument, especially a guitar.

Which makes me wonder what would have to happen to bring him to both of those points. Can you say ‘conflict’? 🙂

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2 thoughts on “Writing exercise

  1. … Interesting. Thanks for sharing the link.

    As for your question at the end… I’m sure that as you write and explore, you will find many ways to take a character beyond what they would never do. However it might be helpful to remember this: there are many paths to choose from and you have the ability to twist any and all of them.

    You say that your character would never get angry enough to kill someone – and for this character, perhaps that can and does remain true – but it is also possible to kill or do harm without being angry. So the end result is perhaps the same but the emotional trigger – unless of course, the harm done is done by complete accident in which case there likely isn’t an emotional trigger – can be a little different. *shrugs* Whatever works best for your character and story.

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