Questing for Character


Secondhand bookshops can be expensive places, but full of characters. Todays haul.

Questing for Character

This week my study pal, George, and I both remarked on the positive impact this study is having on how we approach both writing and reading. George has a similar set of texts as I, so we are working from the same sources. He has chosen to buy electronic versions as he likes the note making ability that comes with this format. I’m a bit old school and like hard copy, making contemporaneous notes, by hand on paper would you believe, as I read. It will be interesting to see how these two approaches to the study work out. I’m not averse to investing in an eReader if it will be useful, but I like the ability to have a whole raft of books open on the desk at the same time.


One of the exercises we discussed this week was Writing Experiment 70 https://wille.org/blog/2019/01/28/character-questionnaire-writing-experiment-no-70/

I have seen character questionnaires before, and completed them, but this one just seems more effective than others. This may be because I have been busy reading the characterization chapters in Janet Burroway’s ‘Writing Fiction as well as David Corbett’s ‘The Art of Character’. I may just be more open to exploring some of the areas of character I had previously avoided. I am finding Corbett’s book pushing me to explore myself in the search for character. He says:

“Not only is meaningful character work impossible without exploring your own inner life, you can’t develop your own voice.” Corbett p37

Corbett goes on to say how important it is to explore important emotional incidents in a character’s life, and therefore in your own life. And he provides a whole raft of deeply affecting occurrences common to most people involving love, shame, anger, violence, joy, death. The list goes on. What he makes clear is that to tap this source of emotional knowledge to form convincing characters the writer must truly know themselves.


It is at this point I was struck by my own arrogance. The belief that I knew myself in any depth was quickly demolished when completing the character questionnaire and finding parts of myself in the character I was defining that I thought well and truly hidden. Those dark parts I like to think belong to someone else and not me, that I conveniently ‘forget’ in the shallow creation of an idealised self. I now realise this is not just a ‘learning to write’ journey I have embarked upon, but a ‘learning to write from my heart’ journey. It is going to be far more challenging than I thought, and those challenges will be in the emotional domain at least as much as the intellectual.


Craft Seminar Exercises completed

Writing Experiment 26

Writing Experiment 30

Writing Experiment 70

All the above from https://wille.org/

Exercise 3 from Corbett, p31

Exercise 1 from Burroway p73

Completed exercises are revised following feedback.

Current Reading

‘Writing Fiction’ Burroway, Chapter 3/4

‘Reading Like a Writer’ Francine Prose Chapters 4/5

‘The Art of the Character’ David Corbett Chapters 2/3

‘The Big Sleep’ Raymond Chandler finished

‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ John Boyne

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©2019 by Rik Lonsdale