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  • Writer's pictureJane

Fun with creating characters!

Updated: Jun 14, 2020

Blue sky, thunder, hail, wind, a colossal downpour, and rainbows was what came through this morning directly prior to my outdoor creative writing workshop start time. But, as luck would have it, all cleared up and we had our fun as planned - yay for random weather and speedy clouds!

The topic of this workshop was character development, which is my favourite part of writing. There were 10 participants and each one came armed with their imagination and ready to create. We had three kids and a teen along, which added extra oomph in the creativity department. Kids always come up with fantastic story lines and these guys sure didn't disappoint. My other guests included several parents and a grand-parent. I can confidently confirm that kids get their creativity from their parents and grand-parents as these guys were brimming with it!

When implementing a character into a story, a writer must know that character as they do themselves. Every interaction, reaction, feeling, and thought that your character has will be effected by past experiences, gender, ethnicity, moral, values, religion, ethics, genetics, culture, etc. So, in order to write a good story and have your readers connect with your characters, you need to spend quite a bit of time on developing them prior to writing your story.

The group used my "character tree" to help create their own unique protagonist. Full disclosure, I got the idea to use a tree from a therapist. She drew a flower for me and used it as an allegory for the connection between mental health and past experiences.

The tree's roots represent your character's 'foundation'. This includes all the stuff that your character was born into and had no control over. Such as: gender, ethnicity, religion, culture, language, financial state, genetics, family, etc. Knowing your characters roots will help you figure out how they are likely to react in a variety of situations and what choices they are more likely to make.

The tree's trunk represents the present state in your character's life. Such as age, living situation, gender identity, school, work, types of friends, bully or bullied, trauma, relationships with family, ethics, values, crutches, dreams for the future.

The tree's canopy represents your character's reactions. Every time your character reacts to an unfolding event in your story, their reactions will be based on their foundation (roots) and present situation (trunk). A reaction to being bullied, may be insecurity. If this is so with your character, then they may tend to act in an insecure fashion to unfolding events. It is important therefore to know beforehand what kinds of reactions will your character tend towards. Reactions could be based in loyalty, disloyalty, confidence, insecurity, highly ethical, shady ethics, faith, negative viewpoint, positive viewpoint, critical, gossipy, empathetic, etc.

After working on their own character trees, group members came up with some pretty cool characters. Characters included an unwavering lawyer, a guy who had escaped from an insane asylum, a girl from the future looking for justice, a female warrior from the future, a squirrel with dissociative identity disorder, a world traveller, a magical being, a careful advocate for justice, a boisterous and super tough woman, and an extremely ethically-inclined academic.

Next up was put our characters into action!

Everyone took a minute to 'get into character' and we embarked on a game of 'Round Robin'. I began a story that took the group into the future via time-travelling machine. The group's mission was to figure out what went wrong in the future so we could fix the past and avoid the issues.

The story went around our circle a few times, each person adding to it while they were in character. As the story made its way around the circle it gained momentum. It went something like this:

The future world they had arrived in had rainbow coloured trees and fish, huge flying butterflies carried locals from here to there. Elves kept trolls as slaves (of which two of the characters were intent on saving), and some of the vegetation was poisonous and locals used slaves (and newcomers) to test it out. Both the newcomers and locals were nervous, but no one chose to abort the mission. Instead they would stay and spy (the chosen spy was of course the boisterous overly-friendly but tough woman), and the female warrior would collect weapons and start an army. No one knew whether to trust the locals and most weren't willing to engage in diplomatic relations quite yet. The insane guy tried to make friends but it didn't go well. The advocate for justice warned all to be patient and not make any sudden moves. The squirrel wouldn't leave the time machine and finally pressed the big red "go" button and took off all by himself back to the present, leaving the others to fight for their lives. The ethically-inclined academic, the magical being, and the world-traveller decided that they had to free the troll slaves. Others agreed that perhaps the trolls would then join forces with them. The girl from the future made plans to castrate the squirrel who'd left them stranded. The female warrior searched for a portal back into the past. And, finally, one of the squirrel's more logical personalities took over and it returned with the time machine, crash-landing it after making several false landings in wrong timezones.

As always, it was a real joy to give a creative writing workshop and this group was awesome!

If you missed the workshop and are interested in creative writing, stay tuned for my upcoming online tutorials that will be launched sometime this week.

Meanwhile, have a great week :-)

This workshop was fully funded by Neighbourhood Small Grants Golden and Golden & District Community Foundation.

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