Take your character for a walk

Photo of Angela Savage
Angela Savage. Photo: Joanna Sheather
6 March 2015
With: 
Angela Savage

Here’s an exercise I developed after I’d written a scene in which there was simply too much interior monologue and not enough action. You’ll need a notebook and pen (or recording device) and a camera. This exercise assumes your character is facing a conflict of some kind as, let’s face it, without conflict, you haven’t got much of a story.

Take your character for a walk, ideally somewhere you haven’t been before, preferably somewhere you can walk around for a bit. A park, forest, beach, gardens, bike/walking path, or the streets of an unfamiliar suburb would work. An abandoned building, construction site, art gallery, market, school yard (after hours), place of worship are also possibilities.

Imagine yourself looking at your surrounds through the eyes of your character. Ask yourself the following questions and take notes on the answers:

  • What would stand out for this character in the landscape (or cityscape), given their state of mind? Consider sounds, smells, weather conditions as well as what you/they can see. Take photos of the visual elements that stand out.
  • What might they overlook?
  • Are there particular objects (graffiti, statues, signage, the shape of trees, flowers, clouds, lighting) that might resonate, or alternatively jar with how they are feeling? Take photos of these too.
  • What effect might the presence or absence of other people have on their thoughts and emotions? Consider the effect of different types of people, i.e. men vs. women, elderly vs. children, workers vs. those at leisure.

When you get home, using your notes and photos to jog your memory, write a scene that describes your character’s thoughts and emotions as they walk through the landscape/cityscape. Weave their observations about their surroundings into the scene, relating these observations to their thoughts and emotions.

About Angela Savage

Angela Savage is a Melbourne writer who has lived and travelled extensively in Asia. Her first novel, ‘Behind the Night Bazaar’, won the 2004 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. All three of her Jayne Keeney PI novels have been shortlisted for Ned Kelly Awards, with ‘The Dying Beach’ also shortlisted for the 2014 Davitt Award. She won the 2011 Scarlett Stiletto Award for short crime fiction.

Update: Angela will be running a Crime Writing workshop in Castlemaine in March 2017.