We were talking about characters in class the other night, and I asked for ideas about how to develop characters. One woman said that she likes to write sketches where she introduces her new character to characters she’s already written about. I thought that sounded like a great idea…for myself, I can imagine that Ginger from Pears on a Willow Tree would have had a LOT to say to Mama in A Year and a Day. Too bad I never thought to get them together.
Here’s another great character exercise that I may have mentioned before but that’s always worth resurrecting. Again, I swiped this idea from a student, who told me that she was in a class with Michael Cunningham (author of The Hours) who had everyone come up with a list of THIRTY phrases/words to physically describe their characters. I’ve tried this, and while the first ten or so aren’t that difficult (5’6”, brown eyes, etc.), to get to thirty, you really have to come up with some new, interesting stuff. Of course, this is the stuff you keep for the work, not the boring brown eyes.