Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 25, 2012

Inner Lives of Your Characters

This Ocotber illustration was sent in by Amalia Hoffman. The inspiration for the illustration came from a photograph of her grand daughter dressed in white & red strips dress. She pictured her as pumpkin girl accompanied by super friendly snails with matching outfits. Amalia was featured on Illustrator Saturday on September 18, 2010.  You can also visit her website:

At the June ’12 NJ SCBWI conference in Princeton, author Laurie Calkhoven had a workshop on Inner Lives of your characters.  I was not able to attend the workshop, but it seems like everyone who attended came out singing her praises.  Jody Staton was one of the writers who sat in on the workshop and agreed to share what Laurie  talked about in this session.  Sorry this took so long to share with you, but Jody had a big vacation planned in Ireland and that was of course, top priority. 

Here’s what Jody wrote:

Laurie Calkhoven talked about the use of acting techniques to dig deep into your character’s lives. She led the group in meditation using prompts that could lead to revelations, sometimes surprising, about your characters. These were the prompts she gave:

            Treasure box: Imagine your character has one. What is in it, what does it look like, where does she keep it?

            Urgency: In an extreme weather situation, your character urgently needs to go somewhere. Why and where?

            Object: What object is in your character’s hand?

            Name: Who named your character, why, and how does she feel about it?

            Passion: What passion or obsession keeps your character awake at night?

            Turning point: What turning point in your character’s backstory caused a major change in her life?

            Memory: What strong memory does your character have involving a parent?

            Fear: What does your character fear the most?

            Secret shame: What is your character ashamed of that she has never spoken of?

            Dream: What recurring dream does your character have?

            Pride: What is your character most proud of?

Laurie recommended four books:

Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation by Sharon Salzberg

Give Me a Break! No Fuss Meditation by Whitney Stewart

How to Meditate: A Guide to Self-discovery by Lawrence LeShan

Writing Alone and with Others by Pat Schneider

Thanks Jody for sharing Laurie’s Workshop with us.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. I was one of the people who attended that workshop and it was really incredible. It opened up a lot about my characters in a short time, and I have no idea why I haven’t been doing this the whole time!


  2. I like this list. It’s different and more fun than others I’ve come across to get to know your character. Thank you.


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