a closet full of characters

james scott bell suggests (in elements of fiction writing-conflict and suspense) to have a barn full of characters.  find them in movies, in other books, in your family, at your job.  change their names.  change their sex.  change anything about them that you want.  keep them in a special place (an imaginary barn or closet in your mind), and take them out when you are ready to employ them in your novels.

do you have any characters you are saving for a special novel?

character development has yet to be a strong point in my writing.  jsb uses stephanie plum novels as an example for how to employ a colorful cast of characters.  and how true!

think, if these were the characters in a novel:

character creation exercise #1:

(directions:  write and create characters without thinking, without stopping, without self-correcting)

robert downey jr. (a sarcastic, intelligent, witty, charismatic, and handsome man)

shirley maclaine (a sarcastic, intelligent, witty, charismatic and beautiful woman--scratch that...she's too similar to the male character)

shirley maclaine as she is in steel magnolias (a sarcastic, mean, blunt, gossipy, righteous woman)

lucy liu as she is on ally macbeal (a blunt, sarcastic, mean---scratch that...too similar) (she made me think of charlie's angel's which leads me to my next character idea)

drew barrymore as she is in that movie when she has short-term memory (blissfully happy and ignorant, naive and loving)

peter pan (fun-loving, childish, energetic, magical, impuslive, brave)

what could one do with this sarcastic man, righteous woman, naive girl, and an impulsive, brave and childish boy?


what would you do?  what scenario could engage these four in conflict?  what story could unfold? 

what characters do you have in your closet?   and where were they inspired from?


  1. Great writing exercise as a way to develop characters. I love James Scott Bell's books on craft.

  2. I have so many characters that I am keeping in my back pocket, I'm starting to feel like the man with too much money in his wallet (ha!). I am going to need to start writing these dudes soon.
    *returns to current revisions* *releases big sigh*

  3. HELLOOOOOOOO!!! Just saw one of your comments on another blog and thought... "I've been missing these two lovely ladies."

    So here I am. ;-)

    I do store my characters that I'm not using away, because my one main character/muse makes them disappear if I don't. That man does NOT like me distracted.


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