Thursday, February 18, 2010

Heat #6: Skeleton

Your Heat for today is a simple character or subject mapping exercise. Choose a new character or subject for this one. This is not a judged exercise, but everyone who comments will get another entry into the drawing for the prize awarded at the Closing Ceremony.

For your new character or subject, write down all of the following:
  1. Age. (Does the character's age create any physical, mental, or emotional characteristics?)
  2. Gender. (Ditto -- but go for non-obvious characteristics here.)
  3. Social roles. (Start with the main role(s) played by the character in the story, but then brainstorm the character's other social roles. Is your waitress also a student at the community college? A Meals On Wheels volunteer? A daughter, a girlfriend, a mom?)
  4. Mannerisms. (Include physical mannerisms, such as scratching an elbow, that might be unrelated to mood or emotion. Also include physical mannerisms that flow from internal states, but try to avoid the obvious such as smiling when happy.)

Congratulations! You've just outlined a character or subject, and you now have a skeleton which you can flesh out as you choose.


Riley Murphy said...

Okay, I did mine. :D He was fun to do, too!

Kelly R. Morgan said...

Turns out, a new scene I needed to add to my manuscript also needed a new character. Nothing ever wasted :) I decided to make him a little nicer than I'd planned when I first thought about adding him.

Unknown said...

Eeek! I'm late. I need to go read the other heats. But I did do this exercise and learned a bit about one of my characters.

Jami Gold said...

This is great because I was working on a new story today. I knew my heroine pretty well already, but I didn't have the hero sketched out.

Jami G.

JustWriteCat said...

This helped. I found out my character needs a few more quirks so she feels more real! I really liked thinking about her social roles. I knew she tended bar as a way to pay for college, and that she is an older sister...but after this Heat I know more about her motivations and her family connections.


Taylor Mathews said...

Loving this heat. Thanks for the challenge!

Jordan said...

Interesting. I found this harder than I expected, but then, I don't even have a name for this character (not even begun on prewriting that one, obviously).

Dave Shaw said...

Did this for two characters that I had names for but hadn't 'met' yet. Found out quite a bit about them that will inform their appearances.

Kathleen MacIver said...

I used this for a new character that my brother came up with when he was helping me brainstorm for my pre-writing. This was more helpful than I expected!

But then it showed me that I don't have the mannerisms down for my hero. The rest, yes...but mannerisms is the weak spot still in his character. So now I'm working on that.

PS. Where was the winner for the Speed Scrivening heat posted Wednesda? I can't find it.

Lisa_Gibson said...

Interesting exercise. I have a worksheet that I often utilize for main characters and maybe an important secondary. They're all important little points in creating a believable character.

Edittorrent said...

Kathleen, we'll announce that winner at the closing ceremonies when we give out the medals.

This exercise is a starting point, but it's a solid starting point. That Dwight Swain was a smart guy. :)


Sylvia said...

Oh, I want to see all the different mannerisms that people came up with! That's where I really struggle.

I took a character that shows up in an introduction and is somewhat of a paper-cut out and I found I know much more about him now. I will rewrite the first chapter to show him more clearly.

Kathleen MacIver said...

Oh, okay. (re: the winner) That particular post said that the winner would be announced the next day. That's why I thought I missed something.

Looking forward to today's heat! This is really helping me make progress on my WIP!

Jami Gold said...


For my H/h of my newest story, I compared each of them to some archetype/being. Then I used that comparison to inspire mannerisms.

For example, say you see your heroine as being cat-like. You might think of some phrases that describe her movements in terms along those lines. How does a cat walk, show frustration, anger, etc.? You don't want to over-do this of course (as most readers would think her weird if she wanted to be scratched under her chin :) ), but it might give you some ideas.

My favorite mannerism I ever read was in J.R. Ward's Lover Unbound. At one point, the hero described the heroine's use of the word "anyway" as a way of mentally erasing a blackboard. That really stuck with me because that's exactly how I use the word, but had never thought of it in those terms before. :) But we can learn from this that the tiniest character traits (even the ubiquitous 'head nod') can transcend the mundane if it's shown to have meaning, even if that meaning is revealed through another character.

Hope this helps!
Jami G.

Sylvia said...

That makes perfect sense, Jami. I will try it!