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Writing Prompt #11

July 12, 2010

Using last week’s prompts, you got to know your character a little bit better. You went through a series of interviews intended to help you get acquainted with this person from the outside.

This week you’re going to flip this around. Instead of interviewing the character, you will BECOME the character.

Journaling

Last week, Mishell Baker wrote a fantastic piece about journaling (“Writing Life: Captain’s Log”). She described different types of journaling, including the “therapy” version of expounding on your feelings and emotions.

The technique I employ is very much like that. Self-indulgent, perhaps, but helpful for clearing my head. I use my journal to release whatever is cluttering up my brain at any given moment. In the process, I dredge up issues of the day that are affecting me. I find that if I’ve got something on my mind, by the end of my journaling session I’m usually able to see it in a different light, often finding a solution to whatever problem I’m facing.

Years after starting this, I discovered a similar process while reading The Artist’s Way (if you haven’t already read this, go to your local independently owned bookstore and GET IT NOW). In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron describes Morning Pages, basically three pages of brain dumping. Whatever passes through your mind goes on the page. No screening, no editing, no filtering. This has two immediate impacts: 1, it clears out the distractions so you can focus on your story; 2, it gets you writing. It’s the leg stretch before your daily jog. The other benefits, and there are many, I will leave for you to discover once you begin the practice on your own.

For me, the key either to journaling or to Morning Pages, is the freewriting aspect. Just shutting off the mind and letting a deeper part of me take over is like shining a flashlight into the dark, hollow cave of my subconscious.

That’s what you’re going to do here, but for your character. Don’t worry if you write nothing but crap at first. It may take a few pages to clear your throat before you start to sing.

1. Review any previous work done with this character, including interview answers from last week’s prompt if you completed those. Get the character fresh in your mind. Visualize this person if you can.

2. Now take a moment to imagine the character inhabiting you. Settle into your chair. Imagine looking into the mirror and seeing the character’s face. Take a few deep breaths as this person and let your mind sink into this new space.

3. At the top of the page, write “Where am I?” For 5 minutes, look through the eyes of your character and describe your surroundings.

4. At the top of the next page, write “What do I feel?” For 5 minutes, let the character answer this however he or she wants to, whether it’s physically or emotionally or both.

5. At the top of the page, write “What do I want?” For 5 minutes, explore his/her/your wants and needs, and any obstacles getting in the way.

6. At this point, you should be properly warmed up. Close your eyes and set yourself free. Let the character speak through you. Nothing is off-limits. Whatever goes through your mind, let it pass onto the page. Spend as long as you can on this, whether it’s one page or 3, 5 minutes or 30.

The amazing things about this process is that every sentence you write is like scraping a layer of dirt off a mound of gold coins. The longer and deeper you dig, the more gold you’ll find. So keep digging. The result with be a startling intimacy with this character that will come into play at surprising points in your story.

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