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Developing Fictional Writing- an exercise

Updated on January 1, 2013

Developing Fictional Writing- an exercise

By Tony DeLorger © 2011

As a fiction writer I constantly challenge myself with exercises in developing characters and playing with plot development. Especially when I’m not writing a book, this keeps my mind on track and pliable. Below is one such exercise- creating a few characters and having them interact and see where it goes. It’s a great way to warm up and I thoroughly recommend it to any writer. First, set up basic characters, their background, history etc and then just write. It’s fun and who knows, it just might turn into a novel.


A surreptitious nod of approval parted the thick glutinous air, and was received with shock, followed by a shudder and a writhing physical uneasiness. She hadn’t expected any form of approval and he knew it, plunging her into an uncomfortable spin. He was calling the shots, much to her dismay, and she tried to steady herself as she walked toward him. His dark-brown eyes glistened in the low light, conveying his pleasure for having taken control.

She stopped within a metre of him and shifted her weight to one side, both white-knuckled hands on her shapely hips. A half smile crept across his mouth as his searching eyes rose slowly from her feet right up to her face.

‘What?’ she shouted. ‘Now everything’s all right?’

‘The dress looks fantastic, that’s all.’

‘That’s just like you. fire me up and then when I lose it, you get all calm and condescending.’

‘What? I’m not allowed to appreciate my wife?’ he said calmly.

‘You’re such a manipulator.’

‘Look, I just want to go to this dinner and forget about fighting. Can we just do that?’

‘Apparently you can,’ she moaned, grabbing her cardigan from the reading chair.

He huffed and rose to his feet languidly heading for the front door. Rachael was already in the car when he alighted onto the outside step and he turned to see her silhouette like stone in the shadows of the front seat. The sun had just stolen the last rays of day and streetlights flickered on, giving intermittent contrast to the darkened streets.

Not a word was spoken on the way toward the valley; the traffic sounds a background murmur to the pointed silence. Allan occasionally sighed unconsciously and then firmly gripped the leather steering wheel with frustration.

Rachael sat there wondering why such simple things could rile her up and once again, send them both into another stalemate. She would have thought compromise an obvious solution after more than ten years together, but Allan liked to play these games, it was his way of keeping her on the back foot, he in some sort of dominant position.

The more she thought about it, the angrier she got, until at a set of lights no more than a few minutes from their destination, she flung the passenger door open and got out.

‘Rachael, don’t be ridiculous!’ he spat.

‘You’re ridiculous,’ she replied, turning on her heel and dashing across the road.

Allan’s chin fell forward onto his chest and he closed his eyes. The light changed and a sudden horn blast from behind brought him around.

‘Shit!’ he said, as he moved through the intersection and around the next corner.

Rachael turned into a bar just past the corner and opened the leadlight glass door and walked inside. There were only a half a dozen people distributed randomly throughout the area and she walked up to the bar and sat on a black leather stool, placing her clutch bag in front of her on the bar.

‘What’ll it be?’ a gravelly voice sounded.

Rachael looked up to see a balding stout man leaning forward with both hands on the edge of the bar. ‘Ah... white wine please,’ she asked hesitantly.

He nodded without a word, bent down and retrieved a bottle from the fridge under the bar. The man had a pleasant face, round and clean-shaven. His dark hair at the sides was neat and slicked back, the skin of his scalp on top shiny under the intimate bar lights.

He poured the wine and pushed the glass toward her. ‘Enjoy,’ he said, taking the banknote Rachael had placed down in front of her.

Rachael took a sip and felt the fruity acidic liquid imbue her taste buds. She sighed and looked tentatively around the room. There was a bearded man, seventy odd, slumped over his drink at the end of the bar; like a statue. Two young women sat at a table in the far corner, occasionally laughing, then leaning forward again, their conversation intensely secretive. To the right, near an open fire, sat a middle-aged couple, both of large proportion and somewhat poorly dressed. They spoke not a word and sat there slowly demolishing a bottle of Scotch whiskey. The only other patron sat near the restroom door, apparently unconscious and slumped forward over the table with his half-filled tankard of beer having long lost its effervescence.

‘Not from ‘round here?’

Rachael turned to the bar tender and smiled awkwardly. ‘Not really.’

The bar tender gave a furtive grin and began polishing the top of the bar with a cloth, purely out of habit. Rachael was obviously uneasy and wasn’t going to talk about what was troubling her.

‘You know, if we ain’t got troubles, we ain’t alive,’ he said, fishing.

She grinned slightly then took another sip of wine to cover any real chance of a response.

The bar tender lifted his hands up in submission, leaving to grab some stock to replenish the fridges. Rachael swivelled on her stool, facing the main area of the bar. It was all dark wood and sombre toning with lead-glass shaded lights hung low into the open spaces, creating street lamp spots of light in the darkness.

It was neither sleazy nor classy and smelt of stale beer and tobacco. It was like most bars, Rachael assumed, having never been to any, but it held a sudden fascination for her. She found herself thinking about the lives of the people who frequented the place, what brought them here and what solace it provided or didn’t.

The front door opened with a creaking sound and a youngish slender man waltzed up to the bar. The barman walked out from the back room.

‘Black label on the rocks, Gerry?’

‘Comin right up.’

Rachael tried not to look at the man, but he was well built with a kind of rugged, masculine appearance, and she felt her eyes wandering in his direction.

After taking a good swig of his scotch, the man turned to Rachael and scanned her from head to toe. ‘Where you going?’ he said jokingly.

Rachael, indignant, turned and said, ‘nowhere, if it were any of your business.’

‘No-one dresses like that in here,’ he replied.

‘Well they do now.’

The man grinned. ‘All dressed up and alone. Mm, there’s a story here. You got the time to tell it?’

Rachael looked directly at him. ‘Why would I tell you anything?’

‘Ben’s the name,’ he said, moving up and sitting on the stool next to her. He stared at her for a moment. ‘You have beautiful eyes....?’

‘Rachael,’ she replied without thinking, and then half regretted it.

Ben removed his denim battle jacket and placed it on the stool next to him. He wore a black tee-shirt and jeans with a plain silver chain around his neck. His arms were muscular and his body trim and obviously fit.

‘So, you get dumped tonight?’

‘You don’t beat around the bush, do you?’

‘Waist of time, wouldn’t you say?

Rachael lowered her head. ‘Not dumped, just a stupid fight,’ she explained.

‘Married then. Shame.’

A little flattered, she smiled. ‘Nearly ten years.’


‘No, it was always careers first. Always wanted ’m though; Allan preferred money.’

‘Sounds to me, this isn’t working out so good for you,’ Ben suggested.

Rachael half-grinned, unsure how to respond.

A thud echoed in the bar as the front door flew open. Allan stood there rigidly, his silk suit reflecting the entrance light. He looked straight ahead and saw Rachael sitting with Ben at the bar. ‘What the fuck?’

Rachael turned toward him and her face dropped. ‘God,’ she mumbled.

‘What the hell do you think you’re doing?’

Rachael turned back toward the bar, looking down at her wine. ‘What do you think?’

‘Who’s this?’

‘Allan, Ben... Ben, Allen’.

Ben smiled and offered his hand only to be met will a dismissive scowl.

‘So this is your solution to our marriage?’ asked Allan angrily.

Ben stood up. ‘We’re just having a conversation, buddy.’

‘I’m no buddy of yours,’ Allan spat, grabbing Rachael by the arm.

She drew back and winced from his firm grip.

‘No-one wants any trouble,’ said Ben. ‘The lady just wants a drink in peace.’

Allan looked at him with utter contempt. ‘None of your fucking business mate!’

Gerry stepped forward. ‘Don’t care who you are. Leave the lady alone or I’ll call the cops,’ he said sternly. ‘There’ll be no trouble.’

Allan, realising he was out numbered, slowly released his grip and looked squarely at Rachael. ‘So this is the way it is?’ He walked toward the entrance and then turned as he opened the door. ‘Fuck you, Rachael.’

The door swung shut and an uncomfortable silence fell over the bar. Ben sat down and pensively looked down at his glass.

‘Sorry about that,’ said Rachael. ‘He’s not usually like that.’

Ben looked at her. ‘If someone shows you who they are, believe ‘em. That’s what I say.’

‘Things change,’ she replied, her body now slumped over, overwhelmed.



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