I've been away on a writing course this week and would like to share some of the exercises we did. Much of it was concerned with character development. Here's one of the first ones we did:
Close your eyes. See a character walking towards you. At first, they are indistinct, then as they come closer, you start to pick out some features. What are they wearing? What do they look like? As they come closer still, notice their face and hair, the texture of their skin. Closer still, what do they smell like? Would this character shake hands with you, or hug? Would they say good morning, or acknowledge you at all?
I chose to use a minor character in the story I'm currently developing for this one and here is what I wrote:
Arthur’s out walking his terrier, Susie as he always does at the same time each morning. He’s wearing his rough clothes: his dog walking clothes as Helen, his wife puts it. An old pair of jeans, with mud splashes around the ankles, well worn walking boots and a practical waterproof jacket with pockets for essentials such as poo bags. His thin grey hair, which is in need of a trim, stirs in the breeze. His cheeks are ruddy, with broken veins from a lifetime of working outdoors in all weathers. His jacket exudes a smell of stale smoke; he’s not allowed to smoke at home as Helen thinks it’s bad for his health. Another pocket conceals a packet of cigarettes and a lighter. Now he’s out of sight of the house, he turns his back against the wind, lights up and takes his first long drag of the day. The cigarette - partially smoked the previous evening and picked out before he got home - is held firmly curled within his calloused palm, easy to hide if he meets a friend of Helen’s. Susie sits at his feet, content to wait patiently. She won’t give away his habits. His secret is safe with her.