Dig out your Short Story Framework again, and this time let’s plan a story that features a character who might be you, but very much isn’t. Let them react in ways you never would, never could, to whatever obstacles you throw at them.
- When trying to get inside the head of this person, it can be useful to think of someone you actually know who is very different from you. Think of someone who does things that you would never do, that you despise, or that you secretly admire. Start with their external actions (what do they do when someone cuts them off in traffic that is so different from what you do, for example.) Backtracked from there to try to figure out what is going on in their head and their heart in that moment.
- Put this character in a situation where there is conflict or stress and where their reactions are going to be really different from how you would react. Write the reactions, and as you’re doing so, unpack the story behind this person.
- Don’t worry about trying to have a clever plot in this story. It can be something as simple as: this person gets cut off in traffic and how they react. The point of this exercise is to investigate the psyche of somebody very different from you. There’s a danger in always writing characters that are too sympathetic or similar to yourself.
- Writing about somebody you dislike or someone unlike you can be very difficult. To make them more sympathetic, give them something there really, really good at. They might be charismatic. They might be really good engineering. But everyone has some areas where they are competent even if they are incompetent in every other sphere that matters to you!
- This is not an exercise in writing a villain. This is an exercise in writing someone very different from yourself. It could be someone you admire.
Julie is the creator of StoryADay May. She created the challenge in 2010 when she realized she was spending so much time daydreaming about ways she could have lived different lives that she might as well write some of them down as stories!
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