Free Time

Some listen to music while others hike up steep hills. Some garden while others paint. Some write letters. Take long walks with friends. Read a book. Design cards. Eat out. Go to movies or the theater.

No matter how obnoxious the character, at some point he relaxes with a preferred activity, so give him one. It would be more startling if the activity is in direct conflict with the character’s viciousness. For example, a serial killer cuddling up with a tiny kitten. Or a bank robber playing Mozart on a grand piano.

All of your characters need to have at least one preferred leisure activity. We need to see them not just at work, but doing something that allows them to break free of the hassle of their work lives.

Your task is to select a character that you know and love. Make a list of at least five different activities that she would enjoy. Choose some that require physical activity, some that require some degree of skill or talent, and some that almost anyone can do.

Choose one of them to incorporate in a scene.  When you write, allow us to see your character relaxed, enjoying the activity. Allow us to feel what she feels, see what she sees, hear what she hears.

Somewhere during the activity, let there be an interruption. Have her react appropriately. Is she annoyed? Angry? Or does she welcome the distraction?

When you are finished, reread looking for the emotional reactions.

Have fun with this one.

Collections

When I was young, I loved comic books. Because we had little money, I seldom was able to buy new ones from the store. Instead I yearned for the days when my dad would drive into the city to the used book store.

It was an amazing place! Stacks of books and magazines covered table after table. It would have taken hours to sort through everything, but it didn’t matter to me because I headed straight for the comic books.

For very little money I could exit with an armful of new magazines to read. It was heavenly. The best thing was that I saved the books and so was able to read them over and over again.

When we moved to California I had to leave my collection behind. I was very sad.

What about your character? What does he collect?

Close your eyes and picture his house. What things hang on the walls? What sit on flat surfaces? What is on shelves or hidden away in closets?

These things reveal a lot about the character. For example, when I think of stamp collectors, I think of rather bookish individuals with magnifying glasses in hand. When I think of baseball card collectors I picture athletes in exercise gear.

Your task is to match a collection to your character’s personality. Then write a scene in which he is engaged in his collection. He could be admiring it, talking about it, sorting through it or selling some of it.

When you are finished, reread. What does your writing reveal that you might not have known before?

Have fun with this one.

Socioeconomic Status

            How much money someone has affects the things that he does, thinks, and says. It impacts future dreams and the things that she hopes to accomplish.

For example, a person who grows up in a wealthy family has everything that she could ever possibly want. Nice clothes, a comfortable bed, good food and all the electronics that one could possibly want. He may attend a private school with other entitled children so never knows what it’s like to have class disrupted by unruly students or may have never witnessed a lunchtime brawl.

This character grows into an adult with distinct advantages in terms of status, education and outlook. He has experienced nothing but the best and desires to maintain that status.

Then consider the low income child who grows up in a tiny studio apartment with eight family members. Who is often hungry and wears ragged hand-me-down shoes and clothes. Who falls ill frequently or has to accompany non-English speaking relatives to appointments to act as translator and so misses great amounts of school.

Perhaps she moves around a lot, from one shelter to another, and so schools change weekly. Most shelters are in low income neighborhoods so she does not have access to modern technology in terms of computer labs, WiFi and calculators. School lunches are adequate, probably free, but not delicious. She knows of students who come to school high on drugs, who sell their bodies and who are bellicose.

Think about how these differing early lives affect how your character behaves in your story.

Your task is to decide into which socioeconomic group your character belongs. Then make a bullet-point list of the structures in this person’s life, beginning with the home environment. Consider size of the home, family living there, quality of food and clothes, and what possessions the character owns. Include on your list the things the character sees in his daily life, as he walks down the street, rides in a car or bus, goes into a store, eats at a soup kitchen or restaurant.

Once you have completed your list, write a short scene in which these elements come into play.

This is not an easy task.

Have fun with this one.

Leisure Activities

What does your character like to do for fun? It’s an important criteria to consider when creating a given character, for such activities influence the events of the story.

For example, if your character began swimming competitively as a child and still swims today, then when he has free time, he’ll choose to go to the pool. It also means that he could use his skills to solve a crime or create a crime.

Scrapbooking is a huge business right now. Many people love to organize photos and memories into these books, pasting in not just pictures, but also decorations that support a given theme. If one of your characters likes to scrapbook, then the finished products could be used to search for a missing child, decorate a hall for a banquet, or evidence to convict a criminal.

Your task is to create a list of activities that your character might enjoy. It might be important to stick to those things that you are familiar with, unless, of course, you want to spend time researching. Try to get at least ten items on your list.

Then  willow it down to the top five.  Embellish these five by listing when and where and with whom the activities take place. For example, swimming could be a solitary activity, or it could be team-based if your character continues to compete today.

From this expanded list settle on one that feels most like your character.

Now write a scene in which she prepares to participate in this activity, or tells someone about it, or tries to convince someone else to join in. Don’t flood the reader with details about the activity, but rather let the reader experience it through the eyes of the character.

Have fun with this one.