Making a Hero: The Wound Exercise
This is an exercise that I stole from Sean Christopher Lewis, a great writer and solo performer. I jiggered with it and made it mine. Be sure to tell me how you like it.
- Think of an old wound that you've had (physical or emotional). Briefly write about how you got it. What were you doing? How did it make you feel? What were the other people around you? How did it make you feel? Take 5 minutes or so to write it out.
- Now take that story and turn it into a FAIRY TALE. It can be as flashy, showy, and epic as you want as long as it's completely FAKE! Put this story in a character that isn't you in a land that isn't yours and a place that you've never lived in with people you've never met. This is your chance to blow every little bit of the wound out of proportion and get outside the box. Take 5-10 minutes to do this.
- Now take that fairy tale piece that you did and make a GRITTY-ACTION FLICK out of it. Channel as much of your inner Quentin Tarantino and take that over the top epic fantasy into the grittiest. rawest, bloodiest slash-em-up that you can think of. This time take the characters that you were working on and make them the skankiest, meanest, most brutal characters you've ever seen. What changes about them? What changes about the place that you set this in? Where does this brutal side of things belong? Take about 10 minutes to do this.
Now for the Lists
After you have that stack of papers from the exercise it's time to make a few lists...
- List all of the Characters that you created: Just give them a working name and a few notes about them. Especially note changes in the characters from one exercise to another. These can become story arcs.
- List some of the places your characters go in each story. What do they make you feel? How do they change? In mood? In style? Who lives in these places?
- List very briefly (bullet points are best) what happened in the general story. Use as broad of strokes as you can. A good example is... "Sandra conquers_____" or "Victor wounds _______" Don't get into specifics. This is just a foundation, not your final work.
Remember this isn't your final work. This is just a foundation for a story and a character that isn't made yet. By the end of this you should have the beginnings of a great hero. Notice in your writing how the character embodies all of the attributes we talked about in the previous Writer Wednesday and make a note of them. This could be the hero you need for your next work!
Also don't feel that just because you used a personal trauma in your life that you have to make this character anything like you. This wasn't a diary post or an autobiography. You're just using something that you can relate to to make a believable character. In fact I encourage to take your workings from this exercise after you did it and tear it up. You're going to be rewriting several more times so you don't need to get connected to things too early. In short you'll always remember the things that you want to keep no matter if you have it written down or not.