Positive Comments

Imagine that you have three good friends. You’ve known each other for many years. You’ve traveled together, eaten together, shopped together. You’ve shared many wonderful moments and overcome difficulties that might have separated others. Through thick and thin you have remained friends.

What would they say are your most positive characteristics? Think beyond the obvious. For example, not just comments about your physical appearance or how clothes fit your body. What would they say?

Your task is to think about a character in one of your stories and the people that she considers friends. Make a list of those individuals.

Next to each name write at least one positive thing that the person would say about the character. Each person must say something different based upon experiences they have shared.

Choose a place in the story where you can insert at least one positive comment from the character’s friend. How does that play out? What does the character say or do in reaction?

Make sure it feels realistic and not forced.

Have fun with this one.


Favorite Books

Whenever someone asks me which book is my favorite, I have to honestly say that I love all kinds of books. I read constantly. Usually I am reading two books at the same time. And I read across genres.

What about your character? What does she like to read? What is it about her preferred genre that she enjoys?

Your task is to generate a list of at least five different things that your protagonist reads. Include a variety of materials, including papers and magazines.

Once you have established the list, narrow it down to the two that you feel could be influential in a story.

Put things in motion. Perhaps she is in the library reading her favorite periodical. How does she react? What feelings run through her head? What happens when someone walks up and interrupts her reading?

Write the story. When you finish, reread for details. Make sure that something compelling happens.

Have fun with this one.


When we’re tired, we are often cranky and unpleasant to be around. It’s not that we don’t get enough sleep on purpose, sometimes it just happens.

Imagine your character out-of-sorts. What does she say and do? How does she treat others? React to what others say?

Picture him at work or at a bar. What happens when someone criticizes something he just completed or bumps into him in the crowd? Does he hurl insults? Come up fighting? Or does he simmer and walk away?

Your task is to write a scene in which your exhausted protagonist mingles with others. First, think of the scene. Then people it with at least two others, possibly co-workers or maybe random strangers. Lastly put things in motion.

Be true to your character’s personality. A shy person most likely will not explode in a loud tirade, but a boisterous individual might.

When you are finished, reread and edit. Add details, dialogue, action.

Have fun with this one.


The Intruder


There is a party. Tons of people are there, clustered in groups in the backyard, around the pool, in the pool, spread out throughout the house.

An argument ensues between two. Maybe a man and woman. Maybe two boys/girls.

Things get pretty heated verbally.

A person comes over to break things up. What does this person say/do?

Your task is to write the scene before the intruder gets involved. Include tons of dialogue. Details, such as facial expressions, body movements.

Then make the intruder notice what’s happening and walk over.

What happens next?

Have fun with this one.

Catastrophic Illness

We don’t like to think about it, talk about it or write about it, but it happens. People fall ill, break bones and develop life-threatening conditions. It’s a fact of life and it affects people of all ages.

When we create our characters’ profiles, we need to consider whether or not those individuals will fall ill with something more severe than the flu. If you’re going for high drama, then perhaps illness works its way into your story.

Your task is to think of a character that you would like as a protagonist. Picture the individual in your mind, or to make things more concrete, go online and seek images of people who look like the character you have in mind. Save that image and consult it frequently.

Next create a list of five possible conditions that might befall that person. Don’t be gentle. Think huge and potentially life-altering.

Research those conditions and add bullets under each until you’ve created a fairly accurate picture of the illness.

Put together the image you’ve saved and one of the conditions, the one you feel most confident writing about.

Design the setting and a plot point, then write. You must keep in mind how this diagnosis affects the character’s mental and emotional state as well as how the character functions in the world. Your story need not end in death: in fact, it would be better if it did not.

Instead focus on the positives. How does someone with that condition work? Play? Interact socially and in a business manner? What kinds of things is the character able to do for relaxation? What would happen if your character had to travel by car, plane or train?

Tackle several of these issues in your story. Give us a character that we can care about, not a simpering whippet who cowers in a corner. Your readers will want to cheer on your character as he manipulates the world despite his condition.

Have fun with this one.


There are times when we fall ill.  It’s hard to raise a child without recurrent bouts of ear infections and colds, and as adults we are susceptible to a variety of germs. Think of all the possible ills: bladder infections, pneumonia, cold sores, viruses.

If we are lucky there are medical treatments to help us recover. Children often go through antibiotics like adults go through booze. We suck on throat lozenges, spray sore throats, guzzle cough syrups and rub on any variety of ointments to ease sore muscles.

Your characters are exposed to disease as well. You have to decide what types and for how long they suffer. What medications or courses of treatment they follow. How they handle being ill. Does he tough it out, refusing to let fevers and chills slow him down or does he fall into bed at the slightest indication of illness and stay there, being miserable, until it passes?

These are things that you must decide.

Your task is to write a scene in which at least one of your characters gets sick. Before you begin, make a list of possible ailments. Go online and do some research, looking for symptoms and cures.

Once your list is established, narrow it down to those things that you feel most comfortable writing about. You might stick to those things that you have personally experienced.

Then write. Have your character fall ill. Based on her personality, have her react in a logical way. Send her to the doctor or hospital. Put her in bed. Give her reactions to the course of treatment.

Who will tend him, providing food, clean clothes and nurturing?

Who holds her hand and places cool clothes on her brow?

These are all the things you must consider as you write.

Now, make your character sick!

Have fun with this one.

Dealing with the Past

In Karen White’s contemporary novel, The Sound of Glass, the secrets of the past are interwoven with events of the present. As the story unfolds, the strings binding together families slowly unravel, revealing a disturbing proclivity that is spread across time, place and generation.

This novel reminds us that a person’s history is built by a series of events that influence the development of character.

A classic example is that of an abusive parent or spouse, who abuses the children of the union, who then grow up not knowing any other path of relationship building, and so repeat the pattern of violent action on a new generation.

Likewise a family that is created by love, kindness and caring raises children who feel the warmth, grow up understanding how love binds together individuals and so build new relationships based on mutual respect.

When designing a character, the writer must take into consideration that individual’s past. While the past might not be described in the text, but it does influence how an individual sees and responds to the world.

One way to do this is to write a character sketch of a defining moment in that person’s life. It could be a remembrance of being held in the father’s arms, snuggling with a sibling in a hammock strung between two strong trees, talk around the table during dinner.

Imagine how differently the individual sees the world if he is smacked across the face for speaking during a meal, pushed against a wall for dropping a toy that shatters into pieces or is whipped with a belt for forgetting to pick up dirty clothes.

Your task is to create the background for a character that already exists in one of your stories. You can do this either by writing a scene or by making a list of bulleted points.

Once you have done this, reread your story and look for places where the individual’s reactions would be influenced by the past. Make corrections in order to build consistency.

Have fun with this one.

Good luck.