Start writing fiction: characters and stories
Start writing fiction: characters and stories

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Start writing fiction: characters and stories

5.3.3 Generating and sharing a character sketch

‘Write what you know’ is a familiar piece of advice often given to writers. But ‘what you know’ can expand through imagination and sympathetic identification with others who are not like you at all.

This is similar to what actors do – they are not confined to ‘playing themselves’ – and neither are writers. But, as Novakovich says, there are other methods for creating your characters besides the autobiographical approach.

Forum assignment activity 4: Trying a new approach to the character sketch

Part 1

Choose one of the methods below, one which is least familiar to you, one you have never tried before:

  • Imagine a character very like you but give them a dramatic external alteration. You might make the character the opposite sex, for example, or make them significantly older or younger. You choose.
  • Imagine a character very like someone you have observed – but give them a dramatic external alteration. You might make the character the opposite sex, for example, or make them significantly older or younger. You choose.
  • Create a character purely on the basis of your imagination or intellectual conception (as described by Novakovich as the ‘ideal method’). Remember, don’t be misled by the term ‘ideal’ – this character won’t necessarily be morally good or well behaved.
  • Create a character using any of the above methods in combination, as in what Novakovich calls the ‘mixed method’.

Now write a brief character sketch, around 300–500 words, in which you reveal certain aspects of the character. Use a third-person narrator (‘he’ or ‘she’). Here are some things you might like to include in your sketch but this is not an exclusive list – you may not include all of these aspects; you may include other aspects:

  • appearance
  • occupation
  • voice
  • feelings
  • current circumstances
  • attitudes
  • hopes and fears.

Part 2

Write your sketch in a Word document, save it, then attach it to a post in the forum thread for this activity [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   for review and feedback from your fellow writers.

Remember: if your writing contains graphic material, you must put a warning in brackets after your title, for example, ‘(explicit content)’ or ‘(strong language)’. (For more information, see Introduction.)

Also note that you will remain the sole owner of copyright for any work you post or submit on the course (for more information see Terms and conditions for sharing material.

Guidelines for your posting

The reviewers will be asked to give you feedback on the following aspects of your assignment, so you should consider these when writing:

  • Which method of character creation was being used?
  • Were you able to see the character clearly? Did you want to know more about the character?
  • What approaches to portrayal, such as depicting appearance, occupation, voice, and so forth, did the writer successfully use?

Please check your assignment carefully before submission as it cannot be edited afterwards.

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