Friday, March 29, 2019

Root-Cause Analysis--the "Why" Question for Your Characters

Maggie, one of my past students, sent me a fun email this week.  She has been using a great technique for getting deeper into her characters.  I wanted to share it this week, while I'm teaching on retreat, so you could try it.  

I want to share a great exercise I devised called "Root-Cause Analysis with Characters."   I was serving on a committee in my school which used a  protocol called "Root-Cause Analysis."  

In this exercise, we chose a particular challenge (in our case it was the achievement gap of a particular group of students) and kept answering the question  "why?" until we could go no further with it--thus getting to the root of the challenge.  

I took  the root-cause analysis idea home and tried it with three of my characters. I imagined having tea with Etta, Gloria, and Helen.  One at a time I asked each of them "What brought you to Big Oaks Resort on Lake Nakwetam?"   

After each response I asked "Why?" and then wrote until the next "Why?"  

What resulted was a wonderful condensation of back story and motivation for each of these three ladies. 

I learned about core values, and life altering events. I learned about hopes and dreams and struggles and pain. 

Intrigued?  Try it this week!  

And if you want to get more hands-on learning about characters, join me for my April 18 afternoon intensive at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.  I've got a brand-new array of exercises and tips to share!

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