Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Do You Converse With Your Characters?

Image from Etsy

I will start by saying I had known about this idea when I saw it in Writing Without the Muse (I have had the first edition of that book since it came out in 1995), but never attempted it until now. The exercise is titled "Internal Dialogue":

Internal Dialogue

A good way to get to know a character is to get into a conversation with her. Invent a character, or think of a character in a book you’ve read or a movie you’ve seen. You may also choose someone from history, or someone you actually know, or once knew. Begin by having the character make a provocative statement. For example:
AMELIA EARHART: I’m so relieved that I’ve never been found. Life was much too public before I figured out a way to get lost.
You can probably think of a few strong replies to such a statement. As they come to you, write your response:
ME: Amelia, where have you been? We’ve been looking all over for you! Do you have any idea how many people have devoted themselves to trying to figure out what happened to you?
AMELIA EARHART: I was right here all the time! I went to work for Pan Am. Isn’t that a hoot? I’ll tell you how I did it…

Go on for awhile, and see if after you’ve developed the dialogue, you have some ideas for settings and plots for this new person.

I then decided to this in my class at work yesterday, and many of the participants (including myself) chose characters from fiction, whereas one chose aa favorite musician and another chose to write a mean dialogue to our current U.S. President. Most of the writings ended up sounded like interviews, which the idea presented above could very well be considered. 

Before I got the idea to do this particular exercise, I had looked over it in my book several times. It seemed a little intimidating at first and I was hesitant to try it, even on my own at home. But upon examining the example above, I thought it would be a good one to try. With any writing idea, there are no hard-and-fast rules. Each person will interpret each exercise as he/she sees it. And it's amazing what each of them can come up with.  I liked the "interview" ideas for the internal dialogue assignment.  As I said, one participant  "interviewed" her favorite musician, Carlos Santana.   And another "interviewed" the Mad Hatter, and I chose to do one with Rapunzel.

I had also found this idea from this site:

Hey! Where Did that Character Come From?

Sometimes, characters show up completely out of the blue. One day, she's there, talking in your head, doing things.Welcome her to your world and start asking her questions. What is she doing? What's her story? Why is she who she is today? What if you put her down in another world?
What situations do you see her in? What's she doing? Is she funny or tragic?
Use your imagination. That character turned up because she has as a story to share. Listen to her story and then write it down.
I also chose this one because it is similar to the Internal Dialogue idea, though most of the class seemed to be following the Internal Dialogue idea. 

I now wonder how I'll "converse" with my own characters. Right now, I'm trying to think how I might do it with my WIP novel, though it is written from the first person POV, which seems to be saying much about his internal thoughts. Now one day I'll try to find a way to create a new character in this manner.

Have any of you out there ever tried this?


Elephant's Child said...

The voices in my head frequently talk to me. Not always nicely.

Sandra said...

Character birth and growth is a fascinating progression isn't it?

Sandra said...


Sandra Cox said...

I'm afraid any dialogue with our current president would involve cursing on both sides.