Story ideas you never would’ve thought of; creating characters

I’m taking a playwriting class at Freehold Theatre. It’s beginning play writing, and although I’m not a beginner, I’m learning a lot.

I’m writing a play for the class that I don’t think I ever would’ve thought of on my own.

How to find Characters

One of the first exercises we did for class was create characters. We did it in two ways.

1. Observe someone

Go to a public place, someplace you can watch people without looking creepy. Find someone to watch. Make notes about what the person is wearing and how the person is wearing it. Very detailed.

2. Remember someone

Think about someone who used to be important to you, someone you haven’t seen in a while. Write down everything you can remember about what that person wore and how the person wore it.

Then figure out who the character is

The way people dress, the clothes and jewelry etc., and how they wear what they wear, says a lot about people. As you think and feel about the person you observed, and the person you remember, you figure out who this person is.

Create a Relationship

Invent a relationship between these two characters. They could be related, old friends, new friends, coworkers, or practically strangers.

Then invent a brief history of their relationship. Create specific and concrete details about the events, places, and people they have in common.

Make the relationship between these two characters be essentially antagonistic, even if it’s friendly antagonism.

Give Them Something to Say

Now write a monologue for each character. Each character should describe the other character, and give his or her point of view about the relationship.

Have each character talk to someone who is sympathetic – but not completely sympathetic – to the character’s point of view. The character tries to persuade the listener to feel the same way he or she feels about both the other character and the relationship as a whole.

What Did I Find?

I have a 25-year-old female graduate student who is investigating a set of male runners, all in their 50s, whose running buddies all die mysteriously. All the runners were treated for bacterial meningitis when they were very young. Something about the treatment stays latent in their bodies until their 50s. Then the bacterial meningitis turns into pneumonic meningitis, which they unknowingly spread to their buddies when they’re running together.

The story has a definite X-Files feel to it. (Ya think?) The scene I wrote for tomorrow’s class shows that the Centers for Disease Control is involved. Conspiracy upon conspiracy!

And I started with two characters, and my own knowledge of people. And my imagination.

The Instructor is…

Rebecca Tourino.  She has a blog:


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2 Responses to Story ideas you never would’ve thought of; creating characters

  1. Some spammer posted a comment on this entry. Weirdly enough, around the links for NFL jerseys, were some really good ideas on writer’s block.

    Anybody that has ever had writer’s block will appreciate a method called “brain dumping” that allows you to write as fast as possible, without thinking. Just keep writing anything that comes to mind. When it comes to breaking through blocks like this, speed writing is something that you can use to write down everything that you are thinking about. You’re not going to think about your content – just write everything down, even if you don’t have proper grammar or punctuation. Once you write everything down, you will be surprised by how much content you actually have once you begin transcribing what you have said. Proofread everything that you write down, and restructure it so it looks presentable.

    Yes, we know that so many people hate writing, and if that is you then you obviously have to outsource or work on overcoming these blocks.

    Of course, when I googled the phrase “a method called ‘brain dumping’ that allows you to write as fast as possible,” I got a lot of hits from a lot of blogs and discussion forums. Hey, if you throw shit out at random, it’s going to be appropriate in a few of those places.

    And, hey, I never would’ve thought of outsourcing my writing blocks!

  2. Pingback: Plots — All the weird sh*t that can happen | Playwright's Muse

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