Thursday, June 17, 2010

Live from Louisville

I’m in Daisy Buchanan’s hometown this week, Louisville, KY., a great town—food, culture, weather, small-town feel. What might not seem so enticing is what I’m doing—reading essays for the College Board, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., for eight days, about a thousand handwritten high school essays.

I’ve tried to get some writing done and to keep up on the Type M front. Here, I will attempt to add to Vicki’s thread begun in her wonderful Monday post “What’s in a Name? A Heck of a Lot” and talk character.

Vicki wrote that she’s reading a Steig Larsson novel and, although she loves the character, is not finding the plot riveting. I’ve written on this topic before: for me, character always comes before plot. In fact, character leads to plot. A story’s plot is only possible because of the character you have developed.

Below is a writing activity I’ve used often to assist students who “don’t know where” their story should go. If you try it, please send the results to

Create your own hero or heroine. This is your chance to play God. You’ve been given complete control, total omniscience, and unlimited power to control a living, breathing human being's existence. Create a character from birth to serve as a protagonist (and/or narrator) for your own story. In order to create an authentic character--a living, breathing person--for your readers, you must truly know your character. Consider these questions:

Sexual orientation?
Where does he/she live?
Does he/she have an accent?
Favorite food?
What does s/he wear?
What is his/her dream?
What is his/her goal?
What does he/her most fear?

Next, read Sue Grafton's bio of Kinsey Millhone at .

Now, write your own character bio. Start at the beginning and be sure all of the questions above are answered. You can fill in additional information when you start your story.


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