Characters Do the Darndest Things

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Writer's Little Instruction Book: Craft & Technique by Paul Raymond Martin

Everyday you see people doing or saying the strangest things. Jot down these incidents in your notebook, and elaborate upon them later. This will log character traits in your brain, so they are more apt to come to mind when needed. For example, imagine a character who:

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  • empties the toaster crumbs every Monday morning;
  • cleans the cutting wheel on the electric can opener once a week because it's "the dirtiest quarter inch in your kitchen";
  • visits a different card shop each day to read the greeting cards;
  • names his son Sharon, after the steel mill town in Pennsylvania;
  • tugs at one sleeve because that arm is slightly longer than the other;
  • telephones her son to remind him again how difficult his birth was for her;
  • stands on tiptoes in family photos to appear taller;
  • vacuums the attic.

Who wants to write—or read—about ordinary characters? Make yours original by absorbing the people around you.

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