Character reduction sauce. An activity for two.

Creating characters can be like making sauce, a reduction sauce. You have to know what you are making, have a list of the ingredients, remember the salt an pepper, add heat, taste it, and reduce. Once all that is done, you’ll be ready to put them in and cause problems.

What kind of sauce are you making?

Neil Gaiman says that new ideas come from combining old ideas. Create that with new characters. Combine bits of people that you already know with an archetype. Don’t feel limited by these archetypes of people, but this should get you started. My character is a “trickster who reminds me a bit of my mom.” Chose your character to interview.

Joseph Campbell’s ArchetypesPeople you know
HeroMom
MentorSister
AllyBrother
HeraldFriend
TricksterClassmate
ShapeshifterRival
GuardianPartner
ShadowCrush
Mix and match

    Ingredients: Make a list of questions to ask your character

    Choose a list of questions to ask your character. Here is a list I like because it asks questions about appearance, background, lifestyle, interests, relationships, thoughts and emotions:

    Salt and Pepper: Add two questions

    Make sure that you know what your character wants by adding two questions to the list you created. These ingredients to the character sauce I gleaned from a workshop I took with Anthony Clark in 2019.

    • “What do you want the most in life?”
    • “What do you want right now?”

    Add those two questions to the end of your list.

    Heat: Become your character and have someone interview you.

    Find a list of questions to ask. Ask a lot of questions, but make sure you have questions about appearance, background, interests, relationships, and thoughts and emotions. Motivation is huge in character development, that’s why you need two questions at the end of your interview that ask what your character wants. What do you want most in life? What do you want most right now?

    Taste: Write for 25 minutes

    Do a little writing. What is your character doing right now? Where are they? Give yourself 25 minutes to make this character talk to someone, try to get something they want.

    Reduce: Rewrite it smaller

    Read what you’ve written. You’re going to rewrite it, keeping all the detail, but it’s not going to be any longer than a page. If you have time, rewrite it again, making it smaller still.

    Now you have a character. Your next writing steps could include developing a setting or using a pixar pitch to consider how the character causes their own fate, good and bad.

    If you’d like me to give this as a workshop, just let me know, and I’ll rustle up some questions and a virtual meetup spot for us.

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