Conversations with the people in your head.

My tried and true method of getting information, motivations, and potential golden nuggets from my characters is the conversation writing exercise. You know the one, where you sit down say something like…

“So, what do you think about mmc? Hot huh?” says author smirking.

Fmc raises an eyebrow and replies, “Are you kidding me? He’s a self absorbed dog. I wouldn’t go near him with a ten foot pole…”

Sighs… “I thought you’d say that. Well, have you got any better ideas?” 

“Yeah actually, put that bartender back in my path and I’ll get cozy.”

“You can’t do that, he’s your brother.”

“What?! No he’s not. I would know if I had a brother.”

“Not if he was given up at birth and hasn’t been seen since.”

Fmc narrows her eyes. “Really. Why? Why does it have to be the bartender? If no one has seen him since my mother gave him up, then why can’t mmc be my brother?”

“’Cause then, I couldn’t annoy, infuriate and ruin your every waking moment, by sicking mmc on you.”

… “You weren’t going to do that before…”

Smiles wickedly. “I am now. Thanks for the idea. Oh and by the way. You can break the whole brother news thing to the bartender. He’s coming over here right now.”

“Wait what-”

Waves lazily. “Good luck!”

At no point in the next ten projects I have planned did I intend to include a bartender or this fmc or mmc, but I may have just started a new wip…

Regardless, this is one of my favorite writing exercises. It’s something that no matter where you are in the process, planning, writing, editing, it can do wonders. Haven’t tried it? Well, despite, how awkward it may seem at first, you should give it a try. The key is to use it when you have questions to answer, either about relationships, background or motivations in your character’s world. Of course it doesn’t always work out the way you plan.

More often than I’d like to admit when using this method, the first question I ask, is something huge and unanswerable. So let your mind wander.

“So, how exactly do you plan to defeat the evil queen? You have no weapons, no friends, and the entire royal guard is out looking for you.”

“Not my problem.”

Mmc crosses arms. “Actually it is your problem. The whole point of the book is for you to defeat the woman who killed your father and stole your kingdom.”

“My father was an ass, and I don’t want to rule. Send someone else to do it.”

Exasperated author grunts. “I can’t do that, I won’t have a book if I do.”

“Don’t care. I’m going to go back to the village to open a bakery.”

Raises eyebrows. “Yeah? And do you know anything about cooking? Have you ever baked anything in your life? Do you even have funds to open a business?”

MMC glares… “Fine. I’ll go to the village and apprentice somewhere. Anything is better than being king.”

“What’s the real reason you don’t want to do this?”

“That is the real reason. Besides, you dangled that beautiful baker’s daughter in front of me in chapter three. I’m gonna see about putting a bun in her oven.”

“Ugh.”

“What, did you see her breasts? I mean damn.”

“Enough, enough.” says author, pinching bridge of her nose…

Mmc shrugs. “Plus everyone loves her. She’s a real sweet young lass and I could use some of that in my life. Compared to being banished, having my father killed, and my kingdom corrupted, a shack and bit of ass is just the pick me up I need.”

Smirks. “And if the queen heard of your new love interest?”

“Why would that happen? She doesn’t even know where I am.”

Shrugs. “In a village that size, someone’s bound to notice a strapping young lad such as yourself flirting with the village beauty.”

“Well-”

“And it would be a shame if the guard plucked her from your grasp and used her as bate.”

“You wouldn’t.”

“Wouldn’t I?”

“Aw come on…”

“And the whole village would blame you for her disappearance. News of what happened to their sweet young lass, is bound to travel. You’d be a pariah in your own land.”

“Fuck you.”

“Hmmhmm. And in order to restore your good name, you’d have to get her back.”

Mmc throws his hands in the air. “And how do I do that?”

A grin breaks across the authors face. “By defeating the evil queen of course.”

“Of course. I thought we already decided that I can’t do that.”

“You can if the whole village wants their girl back. I’m sure all the other wiry gents would hate to see such a beauty lost. I sincerely doubt your the only one looking to get in that oven.”

“Why I oughta-”

“Plus, that’ll give you a whole band of eager companions to fight with.”

“Which is exactly why this won’t work. They’ll hate me!”

“Oh yeah, they’ll hate you I’m sure, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to screw up and redeem yourself. You might even live to rule the kingdom.”

“You know on second thought, I don’t think I want to go back to the village. I’ll find another lass in another place.”

Author grins. “Too late.”

So, again, not something I was planning or gave any thought to at all before starting this post. This sort of exercise can be massively helpful and I encourage you to try it the next time you’re stumped. It’s also worth noting, that it aids tremendously in developing a separate voice for each of your characters so don’t just use it on your mmc or fmc. Try it out across any of your major players, and you’ll get results. Plus it’s sort of a stress/tension relieving exercise because it’s whatever you make of it.

Enjoy!

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