A Character-Finding Exercise

Dan suggested a cool exercise to play with the Annoyance style and focus on character in scenes:

I think one of the easiest ways to make yourself play in that style is to start every scene by making your character say 5 consecutive I statements. It will force you to explore your character and ditch premise.

I interpret this to mean that one should make these five statements in the scene, each of which should reveal something about the character of the person who says it (we tried a slightly different version during a practice today in which the five statements were made before the scene started). The most obvious of these are sentences that start with “I”:

  1. I like cake.
  2. I am tired.
  3. I can’t wait anymore.
  4. I don’t appreciate it when people talk to me like that.

Let’s say that restricting oneself to sentences that start with “I” is the version A of the exercise.

Now, what if we want to make the scene feel less stilted? Then, instead of starting a sentence with “I”, we can think the sentence and find a way to express it without using any first-person pronouns. This gets particularly interesting if we can make physical choices to express these ideas. Let’s revisit the statements above:

  1. (holding onto a space object plate) Mmm… this cake is delicious!
  2. (yawn) Time to lie down.
  3. (pacing while looking at one’s wrist) Come on, already.
  4. (glowering) How rude!

In some of the cases above, the words might not even be necessary. Let’s call this version B of the exercise.

Couldn’t one make the case that pretty much any statement a person makes could reveal something about a character? I think so. Even the so-called “you statement” could be used to reveal something about a character’s status or how that character thinks about others. Thus, before stating any line during a scene, one should reflect on what previous statements reveal. Let’s call this version C.

Taking the previous point one step further, every action verbal or otherwise could reveal something about one’s character, and yadda yadda yadda, version D.

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