A Character Exercise with help from Tyrion Lannister and Joffrey Baratheon


Okay, I want you to try something with me. It’s a bit of an exercise that I think is helping me build my characters.

The first thing you have to do is write this statement and fill in the blank:

Readers will like my character because he is _______.

Now, pretend that I say, “Oh really? Prove it.” Next, write a short passage, or even just a line, showing me just how _______ your character is.

For example…

Readers will like my character because he is passionate about books and history.

Don’t believe me? Well read this…

Tyrion Lannister looked up from his books and shivered…

His reading lamp was flickering, its oil all but gone, as dawn light leaked through the high windows. He had been at it all night, but that was nothing new. Tyrion Lannister was not much a one for sleeping.

…the septon was snoring softly, his head pillowed on an open book in front of him. Tyrion glanced at the title. A life of the Grand Maester Aethelmure, no wonder. “Chayle,” he said softly. The young man jerked up, blinking, confused, the crystal of his order swinging wildly on its silver chain. “I’m off to break my fast. See that you return the books to the shelves. Be gentle with the Valyrian scrolls, the parchment is very dry. Ayrmidon’s Engines of War is quite rare, and yours is the only complete copy I’ve ever seen.”

See? I told you he is passionate about books. He certainly cares about them more than that Maester does! He’s even been up all night reading them.

Let’s try this again.

Readers will like my character because he is funny.

Oh yeah? Prove it.

“What are you doing up there? Why aren’t you at the feast?”

“Too hot, too noisy, and I’d drunk too much wine,” the dwarf told him. “I learned long ago that it is considered rude to vomit on your brother.”

Now, let me be clear that you cannot say he is funny and then just repeat it in the text.

For example:

Readers will like my character because he is funny.

Oh yeah? Prove it.

Everyone liked Moren, for he was a funny man. Whenever anyone saw him, they knew they were about to laugh. Once, Moren had even made Jeni laugh so hard at dinner that a pea shot out from her nose.

Okay, okay, so people in your story think Moren is funny. Well, I don’t.

Let’s do one last example, but using hate instead of like.

Readers will hate Joffrey because he is a sniveling little twit.

Oh yeah? Prove it.

“I am in no mood for your insolence today.” Tyrion turned to his nephew. “Joffrey, it is past time you called on Lord Eddard and his lady, to offer them your comfort.”

Joffrey looked as petulant as only a boy prince can look. “What good will my comfort do them?”

“None,” Tyrion said. “Yet it is expected of you. You’re absence has been noted.”

“The Stark boy is nothing to me,” Joffrey said. “I cannot abide the wailing of women.”

Tyrion Lannister reached up and slapped his nephew hard across the face. The boys cheek began to redden.

“One word,” Tyrion said. “And I will hit you again.”

“I’m going to tell mother!” Joffrey exclaimed.

Tyrion hit him again. Now both cheeks flamed.

Yep, you were right. That Joffrey is a right old prick. Oh, and Tyrion is awesome.



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