How To Keep Writing Activity 1: Doodling
Doodling is the perfect way to start exposition and character development. As you draw, your mind wants to come up with reasons those little shapes exist.
Is this going to be pastoral? A family portrait? Architecture? Is it day or night? Are the shapes aware of their surroundings? Is there personification?
All of these little questions build until a scene is set up. That’s the birth of exposition.
Below is a doodle I scribbled. This is Fredonia. Doesn't that sound exotic or French-sounding name?
Her scarf is the first thing I drew. It’s flowing behind her as she angles her head for the camera. I drew her head and hair, and then her eyes were next. Because eyes are symmetrical, I copied and pasted her second eye right next to the first one. Then I scribbled a clothing-covered body so that her head wasn't floating in the air.
Her shoulders are slumped, so I'm going to say she's a 13-year-old who was just told by her older brother to go home for supper. She gave him an attitude--and a dirty look over her shoulder--as she flounced off.
Character Development Sheet
So I have a name and a posture. Character development has started!
Click HERE to view or download the development sheet on Google Docs, or just look below for more things to keep in mind for character development:
As you can probably imagine, the questions we ask as we develop our characters can go on forever. Answering one will just open the door to even more questions, answers, and discoveries about your character.
It’s always a good idea to come up with even a basic character development/details sheet before writing this character into a story. If they are going to be a round character (one that grows and develops as the story goes) rather than a static character (one whose personality changes very little if at all), then you will need to know enough about them to write them into a story.
I’ve found that as I learn what kind of person I’m building, a plotline will form simply because certain kinds of people will do certain kinds of things. This is called staying in character. As you learn about the person you are creating, you'll learn of things that then out of character for them to say or feel or do as well.
It’s a rare creature indeed that you’re going to see an arm amputee have an occupation as a hairdresser unless they have an awesome prosthetic....Oh! A hairdresser with a prosthetic! Who has a secret! BAM. Main character material. See? More characterization!
But then their personality will help you decide if a hairdresser is still something that they would do. Are they outgoing and love to chat? Just love hair no matter how much they talk? As you doodle, it'll come to you; trust me.
Exposition Development Details
- What is your main character’s usual routine?
- Who does your main character see or hang out with on a day-to-day basis?
- What was happening when your character’s usual routine was interrupted?
The first and second points are the exposition. The third is the reason this book was written.
BAM. Plotline. There are few books about normal routines. Unless it’s exotic for the person reading it or it’s the journal of a long-dead person of interest, the whole point of a story line is for the routine to go wrong, or for the story being told to be extraordinary.
By knowing your character inside and out, you’ll easily be able to come up with more ideas for exposition and plot development as well.
Let's take a look at what you've been doodling.
- Does your doodle have a name? Does the name have any significance for what the doodle might be? Is the name more common in a certain part of the world? Is it just a nickname? Do we ever get to know the doodle's real name? Is this relevant to whatever story you might be writing?
- Does your doodle have identifiable features that suggest mood or personality? Posture? Smile? Frown?
- Does your doodle have color? Is there any significance to the color?
- What is your doodle wearing, if anything? Does it suggest class or social status? Is your doodle out on a fancy date? Just going to the library?
- Does your doodle have an age? Or at least an age group you'll be writing for?
All of these can be clues that you'll see just by glimpsing at your doodle for a couple of minutes, or as you doodle it. And guess what; they're all important to your story.
Even if all you do to answer one of the questions is to say, "No, my doodle is not in color, and this is not significant to my story," that helps you move on to what else you need to know about your character. The best part? Just the fact that you've answered it will keep it in the back of your mind for future reference if it ever does become relevant.
These questions also help you decide if you're going to make them a main character, a side character, or just a character met in passing.
Please comment below on different characters you've doodled into life. I'd love to hear about them! =)
Do you have other ideas for character development that you've used and find to be key to a character's success? Please share that below as well! I am always looking to improve how I write.
And Good Luck!
Please Let Me Know! =)
Have you tried this exercise, and has it helped?
© 2012 Jennifer Kessner