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Creating Characters

“I know some things when I start. I know, let’s say, that the play is going to be a 1970s or a 1930s play, and it’s going to be about a piano, but that’s it. I slowly discover who the characters are as I go along” – August Wilson.

Creating characters.

Characters may be the starting point for you as a writer or you may discover them as you go along. Your characters carry the drama and propel it forward with their needs and intentions which make them take action and overcome the obstacles in their paths.

Task: If you can, go to a clothes shop with a friend and choose clothes for each other that you would never usually wear. Go into the changing room and try on the clothes and take a photograph of yourselves in the new outfits. Even though it’s tempting try not to make them too outlandish. This is the starting point for a character you are inventing.

Back at home look at the photo of yourself in the outfit. Very quickly and without thinking too hard answer the following questions about this new character:

  1. What is his/her name?
  2. How old is he/she?
  3. What does he/she want or need at this moment?
  4. Name three physical characteristics or mannerisms they have.
  5. What is their ethnicity/cultural background?
  6. How do they make a living/earn some income?
  7. What do they wish for?
  8. What was the last lie they told?
  9. Do they have a secret?
  10. What kind of home do they have? Where is it?
  11. What do they believe in?
  12. What is the closest relationship they have?
  13. Where do they dream of going?
  14. When did they last cry?

Remember that all people are full of contradictions and that is what makes a character interesting so don’t worry if some of your responses contradict themselves. When you have answered all the questions, write a character study of this person which is approximately 500 words long. The character study is written in prose and contains all the information you have so far.

When you have written it either swap it with a friend or analyse it yourself. When you have read the character study, write down a list of the questions you are asking yourself about this character. Write down as many questions as you can. Post the photograph of your character on our website with the character study alongside it.

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