Research Writing Exercises are writing explorations that help you to discover the truth about your characters, story, structure, themes and plot. When we don't know what happens next in our story, or why our character does something, or how two characters feel about each other or what the whole point of a script or manuscript is, it is because we just haven't learned enough about the character/s and the world of our stories.
Let's say you have a roommate. A roommate who refuses to wash her own damn dishes. You could continue to leave passive aggressive notes, or your could ask about her past. Perhaps you will discover that her mother you used to punish her by making her do the dishes while being lectured. This causes her to becomes overwhelmed with shame and guilt every time she does the dishes. This may point to more story or structure. How can she overcome this wound from her past?
Discovering these truths about your characters will give you greater insight and ability to; arc your characters, tell universal stories and stand out as a writer who truly understands the nature of human behavior.
So each week a new Research Writing Exercise will be posted so you always have a place to go to get the assignment you need to move your work forward.
WHEN YOU WRITE
Don't THINK or DECIDE what happened. Simple connect to your character and let them take over your pen, let them show you the truth.
OH, AND SET A TIMER
Set a time for 10 - 30 minutes each time. The timer will give you permission to get fully submerged in your writing without worrying about whether or not you need to go to work/play/school/date.
Put your character in a situation where they are in the woods. Work retreat? Camping? Kidnapping? Whatever would honestly need to happen to get this person into the forest. Now. Let them get lost. Write how the react and deal with this reality.
We all have legit fears; death, looking a fool in public, snakes etc. But most of us also have silly fears. (I was scared to go to the NYC library for ten years.) What is/are your characters silly fears? Put them in a situation where they either have to admit their fear or overcome it.
What was your characters relationship to their father? How does this effect them now? How are they like their father?
Put your character in a situation where they are extremely hot. How do they act? What do they feel? How do they attempt to cool down? Do they start to see things?
Often times we have strange daydreams that grow a bit dark. Things we know we don't really want to have happen but we fantasize about.
Step into your character's mind and discover 3 Day-Mares. Write them out, as detailed as possible. What do they all have in common. What emotional need do they seem to be serving?
Sit down with your character. Ask them to put a hand over their heart. Then ask them "What does your heart long for?" Let them speak for as long as they want to. Just listen.
What is your character addicted to? Coffee, whiskey, sex, facebook? When did this addiction first start? What is the real cause, what truth about themselves or their past are they refusing to directly face?
Take your character to therapy. How do they react? What do they say or not say?
We all are in Denial about something. Sometimes that denial helps us survive...until it doesn't and it begins to destroy us. Take walk through your characters unconscious mind. Discover the truth that they are denying. When did this start? How did it serve them at first? How is it starting to destroy their life now?
What are your characters political beliefs? How were there beliefs first shaped? What experiences shaped them? Have they had these beliefs since childhood or did they change as they grew up?
What is their source for staying up to date on current events?
Now put them in a small space with someone who believes the opposite... what happens?
How does your character feel about birthdays? What was your characters best birthday experience? What was their worst?
What is your characters thoughts on "winning & losing"? Is winning important? Is it how you play the game? Is 2nd place great or is it really just being the first loser? Who shaped these ideas for your character? What events in their childhood helped them form their current beliefs about winning and losing.
Put your character in a situation when they have lost their phone at the worst possible moment. How do they respond? How do they art? What do they do?
If your character doesn't have a phone, take away their voice, their main way of communicating. What do they do next?
How do they still go after their super objective even with this communication set back.
If your character found a do over machine, what event would they go back and relive. What would they do different?
Ask your character to tell you about their favorite movie. When did they first see this film? What made them fall in love with it? Who have they shown this movie to? What are others' reactions to the movie?
Get your character reaaaallllllly drunk. What repressed desires come out? Who do they call? What do they reveal?
Drift back in your characters timeline. Discover your characters first experience with death.
Put your character in an Escape Room. What happens at first when things are easy, then as the puzzles get harder, how does this alter their mood, language, attitude and behavior. Do they escape in time or not? How do they respond to this?
Drift back in your characters life, when was the first time they felt shamed for a core part of who they are. Write that moment.
Your character has a least two different identities, masks if you will. Write the scenes where they first discovered each mask and how it changed their emotions, actions, relationships and priorities.
Step into your character unconscious and write through a reoccurring nightmare.
When was the first time they had this nightmare? What was happening in their life at the time?
Take a few moments. Connect to your character. drift back in their time line and discover the last time they cried. Where were they? What had just happened? How did they they? How did this moment change them?
Write the scene when your character first discovered the pain of a broken friendship. Who was the friend, how unique was their friendship and what broke them apart?
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The Science & Art of Writing was founded by award winning writer & certified yoga instructor Jessica Hinds.