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I was wondering if anyone had any writing exercises that they use to help them get to know their characters better. I keep false-starting on my story because I have more of a hazy idea of who my main character is.

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At the simplest level you have to come up with name, age, job, physical characteristics, likes/dislikes, but you also need to have some idea of motivation, values and goals. Is this person someone who would buy flowers for both friends who has fallen out, or one who would take sides, for example?

To get students to have a clearer picture of their character I ask them to think of things such as, 'What is your favourite television programme?' and 'What is something you really hate?' Although it might seem strange: imagine you are your main character. What are you like? Write a job application. Fill in a dating site enrolment form. Write the wikipedia entry for your character. Write the description a best friend would provide to another person. Imagine the obituary.

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