by Marcie Schwindt
When I joined this group, I had trouble coming up with new ideas. Writing stories took me forever, if I finished them at all, because, subconsciously, I was afraid I’d otherwise be without something to write. The title prompts we use for homework and writing exercises just don’t do it for me, never have.
At my first CWC retreat, Marion Smith led the group in a character building exercise, where she provided us with a list of names (First and Last, a couple with middle names). She asked the group to write a one or two sentence description of how we saw that “person” based solely on the name. The focus of the workshop was to show the correlation between a character’s name and the reader’s expectation of the character’s personality. But I took something more away. From that simple exercise, I realized that characters were my source of inspiration. I expanded on them, and created character files for the few that spoke to me. Later I added more pages for other “characters” I came across in real life. Soon I had a box full of them.
When the box overflowed, I stopped collecting. Later my productivity suffered from the opposite problem, too many ideas in my head. This weekend characters born out of my attending the Santa Claus Parade took residence in Box #2, and writing for my current WIP once again began to flow.
Here’s an exercise for you. Create a short character sketch for one or more of these people:
- attended the parade as a spectator
- watched the parade on TV
- didn’t watch the parade at all
- participated in the parade (driver, float rider, walked, wore a costume, etc.)
- worked at, but did not participate in, the parade (crowd control, paramedic, street cleaner, etc.)
- designed and/or built a float
- organized the parade
What inspires your new ideas? Characters? Words? Phrases? Questions? Do you have a box (or digital representation thereof) for them? Why or why not?
Marcie Schwindt loves to read and write fast-paced, character and travel driven stories. She writes under the names Marcie Schwindt, Marcie Walker, and Amber Willow and can be found on Twitter @marcie8