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Taking a character for a walk

Begin by inventing ten or twelve separate characters, all different from each other. For each one, choose five adjectives that will bring that character back into your mind. For example:

  • Vagrant, stubborn, anti-social, dirty and claustrophobic
  • Elegant, self-centred, cruel, secretive and rich
  • Industrious, principled, obsessive, judgmental and tired

Write each group of adjectives on a separate slip of paper and put all the slips into an envelope.

When you are ready for your walk, pull out one of the slips at random and think yourself into the mind of that character. Then set out on the walk, seeing everything through his or her eyes. When you get back, stay in character and write a description of your walk, commenting on what you noticed and your general impressions of the neighbourhood.

Then pick another slip, go on the same walk as a different character and write a second description of what you noticed and how you felt about it.

Instead of going on a walk, you could pick your characters as above and visit a property website to go on a virtual tour of one of the houses. Choose a house with furniture—preferably a big house—and take the virtual tour. Then write about what you saw and how you felt.

When you have finished your real or virtual walks and written the descriptions of what you encountered, compare the two versions. Did your characters notice different things? Or notice the same things but describe them in different ways? Do those differences feel laboured and artificial, or do they give you a real sense of the people who wrote them? If you share your writing with friends, you could try giving them the two descriptions, without explaining how they were produced. Does their impression of the two writers tally with how you imagined them?

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