Friday, 27 November 2015

Writing Exercise: Character Correspondence

Before I write down one word, I have to have the character in my mind through and through. I must penetrate into the last wrinkle of his soul. - Henrik Ibsen
Write a letter to one of your characters. You might choose a character that you’re struggling to get right or a character you love but don’t know what to do with. You might want to ask them a question, offer some advice, air your frustrations towards them, or to ask them to tell you what they think should happen next.

This may sound a bit odd but there are lots of benefits to this exercise. First, if you’re feeling blocked it will get you writing something. More importantly, it will clarify where you are with your character- what you feel is going badly, what you feel you’ve done well. Given a letter is usually a small space, it will allow you to really think what you would like to find out.

When I wrote my letter I found myself apologising to my character for the misfortunes in her life, but resolved that despite the sadness I’ve made her tolerate it would be the wrong move to give my novel a ‘happy ending’. I finished my letter with a series of questions all of which basically asked ‘have I portrayed you correctly?’ These answers are emerging over time. By seeing your character as a real person you become a biographer. You’re no longer inventing someone’s life but trying to reveal and unearth all the facts slowly.

I did draw the line at sending the letter – I feel imaginary penfriends is probably not a track I want to go down. However, in terms of getting to know my character and deciding what to do next with my story writing, letters to fictitious people has proved a very helpful little tool.

Further suggestion >>> Write a response from your character to your letter. This is a great way of familiarising yourself with their voice and gaining further knowledge into where they want to take you. 


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