The other day I was trying to park the car so that I could get to a meeting. No matter where or which way I tried to turn, all of the streets were either blocked or went one way–the wrong way. Finally, I pulled up on one block where there was a parking garage just in off the corner. There was one car ahead of me on the block and a fire truck was blocking the street in front of that. The firefighters were standing around on the sidewalk, so I foolishly thought that meant they were about to pull away and I would be able to pull into the garage that was about ten feet away. After waiting about five minutes for the fire truck to move, a woman walked over to the passenger window of the car in front of me, spoke to them for less than a minute and walked away from their car. I thought she knew them and had just stopped to say hello. She then came over to me. The woman was middle-aged, and well dressed with a very pretty umbrella shielding her from the rain. I tentatively opened the window a couple of inches hoping that it would not rain into the car, but enough so that I could hear her. She informed me that the firefighters were waiting for ConEd (the local NYC power company) and that it would be a while before they moved and I could move up the block. She then suggested that I back out of the street – a generally risky move in NYC. With no choice and a meeting that I was late for, that is exactly what I did. I waited for the traffic light to be in my favor and I backed out into the intersection and then started to proceed around to another garage that I had passed in my earlier wanderings. I got two blocks further, and still half a block from the garage I was heading to when I was rewarded with a spot on the street (a prized commodity in NYC) barely ten feet from the building where my meeting was.
Through the entire ordeal I maintained a relatively calm demeanor. I called ahead to my meeting twice to keep them updated, but no yelling and muttering to myself in the car while I drove around and around. This made me start to wonder, what would I learn if I put my main character through this kind of frustrating situation? What would I learn if I put my villain through this torture, New York style? There are many things to be learned about ourselves and our characters by putting them into this predicament. For instance, will they get frustrated; will they call ahead, or not; how will they react to the woman who approached the car? Will they have a surprising reaction? Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver comes to mind as an example.
In these exercises I have you set the timer and write first about your hero or main character and then in some cases you repeat the exercise for your villain or other characters. This time, however, I want you to set the timer and writing in the first person, complete the exercise for your villain.
- Set a timer for 15 minutes. Put your villain in the scenario described above, and writing in first person (and by hand) describe how your villain feels as they are driving around and around. At what point will they give up and just pull into the first garage that they pass without looking at the cost, if at all? Do they call ahead? Try to get to the emotions that are being triggered.
- Next set the timer again for 5 minutes and write in the first person, about how they relate to the woman who comes over to the car. Do they even open the window, do they engage her in conversation?
- If you would like, you can now complete the exercise for other characters using the same method.
Obviously, the type of villain will alter some parts of the answers, however, no matter the villain, this exercise will give you tremendous insight into your character and enable you to write richer characters.
Here’s to your successful and happy writing,
Professor Marilyn Horowitz
copyright (c)2015 by Marilyn Horowitz