Holiday Writing Workout: Yay Mess!

So, I wrote a blog post yesterday and it disappeared. Blipped out of existence just like THAT (snaps magic fingers). Strange. Perhaps something was trying to tell me to get back to my rewrite.

This is part of my mini-series: Holiday Writing Workout – for those working on a post NaNo hangover or who just want to keep the motor running through the holidaze.

I liked the exercise inspired by book post from Monday, so I decided to explore that again.

Right now I’m reading John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines. Just kick me in the shins this minute for waiting so long to pick up one of his books.

I love, love, love the relationship between the protagonist and his best friend. Green writes the American YA version of Nick Hornby’s books (High Fidelity, About a Boy), methinks. Both have the uncanny ability to create romantic comedies that DUDES can like. I’m seriously going to sneak this book into my husband’s reading stack.

Green also does one of the things I SO appreciate as a reader: he makes his characters messy.

Let’s say for all intents and purposes, that everything you write is for me. I’m begging you – please, please, please do not make your characters infallible and perfect. Do not make your MC’s boyfriend willing to wait 7 years for her while he fights the monsters away, his golden locks cradling his angel face and his heavy romantic sighs rippling through his chiseled body while he helps old ladies carry boxes of puppies across the street. Just don’t.

Flawed, wounded, and carrying baggage. That’s interesting. That’s what makes them real.



(those are links to previous entries on messy characters for your reference. i’m very passionate about this topic)


Set your timer for 5 minutes. Start at the top of the page with the following startline: When my protagonist looks in the mirror he/she sees (or thinks)…

Write, don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t cross out.

When the timer stops, go to the center of that exercise, pull out the middle line, use that for your next start line, and write for 7 minutes more. Repeat for 10 minutes.

Now go back with a highlighter or another colour pen and mark the things that make sense to you.

Use this exercise on ANY character you’d like to develop more.


  1. Deb
    Dec 29, 2011

    Whoa…love this exercise. Love it! Thanks.
    You picked a good John Green to start with. Some say it is his best!

  2. Thanks, Deb. I just finished and am looking forward to more. I spent a bunch of time procrastinating on his blog watching all hid vlogcasts. Not only is he talented, he’s a generous person.

    • Deb Marshall
      Dec 30, 2011

      Yes, very generous…and oh. so. funny. Now, must try and stay on task on not be watching me some Vlog Brothers, lol!

  3. IdentitySeeker
    Jan 11, 2012

    Wow! This is such an interesting exercise. I’m definitely giving this a try. Thank you for this great strategy to get the creative juices flowing!

    P.S. I find messy characters carrying tons of baggage very interesting:)


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