Home > PRISM Online > Tuesday Prompt: What’s wrong with you? Don’t ever change
peas and carrots

Written by Matt Cardinal.

Do you keep a safe distance between your carrots and peas on a dinner plate? Do you get territorial over armrests on flights? What superstitions would you justify? What topics make you too stubborn to debate with?

Everyone has ticks or flaws that they might be able to admit, but never attempt to change. That’s fine. That’s who we are as irrational, self-affirming and emotionally-driven apes with designer footwear. The characters we write, fictional or not, ought to demonstrate a similar blissful ignorance.

This exercise is an experiment with voice and character building that relies heavily on self-reflection and I find it’s most effective if you can poke fun at yourself in the process. This should help you in recognizing the importance of flaws that make you and the characters you create complex and relatable. For example, if Holden Caulfield was honest and gave strangers the benefit of the doubt, The Catcher in the Rye would be a self-guided TripAdvisor tour of Manhattan.

Try to think of a personal tick, superstition or critical opinion that you have.

Qualify yourself or your character as a leading expert on the topic and start writing. This is the most important part. For the sake of this exercise, be shameless and indulge in your character’s biases. Even when a rationally constructed opposing argument creeps into your mind, find the emotional means in your character to dismiss or debunk it.

Place yourself or your character into a scene where defending their belief to such an irrational end could cost them.

Hopefully this will help in figuring out what biases define your characters and just how far they’ll go to defend them.

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