Writing Game: Get in Their Heads

Pick someone you loathe.

Come on, everyone has one. Yours could be someone famous, I suppose, whose morals or actions you disagree with. But that’s no fun. I want you to think of someone in your real life that drives you batshit. It could be a family member. A neighbour. That one woman at work whose voice makes you want to pull your own ears off so you can more easily stuff something, anything inside the holes and finally have some blessed silence.

I mean, if you know someone like that, you could use them for this game*.

Okay, so you’ve got your loathee picked out. Your job is to get into his or her head. What do they do at night? What’s their guilty pleasure? What’s in their bank account? How do they view themselves? What’s their secret? Set up shop and poke around a little.

Now experience an obstacle, as your loathee. The plumbing has burst, and there’s a jet of water shooting across the room. The car broke down, and the next paycheque isn’t due til next week. And by the way, that promotion went to someone else.
What does your loathee do? What are they thinking? What’s their mood like? Do they lay blame, and if so, on who?

You can play this game in two ways:
1. For the greater good.
Maybe by imagining what’s going on in this person’s life and thoughts will help you to understand them a little better. Maybe you’ll learn to let old grudges go, to be more accommodating to the quirks and nuances of someone you never much cared for. You’ll better communicate with someone you understand.


2.Sweet, sweet evil.
That weird smell your loathee gives off? That’s because he sacrifices cats by the light of the full mooon: what you’re smelling is singed fur. And the reason she doesn’t listen is because she’s stuffed cork in her ears to compensate for a tragic deformity wherein her brains leak out if she tilts her head (which also explains why she’s so dumb). Run with it, ascribe any horrible fictional trait you like, but base it loosely in fact. Flex your imagination.

But why someone you don’t like?
Picking someone you don’t like gets you outside your comfort zone. It’s easy to imagine someone just like yourself; simply plug in your own ideals and reactions and it’s done. But often the people we don’t like are the people we don’t get. There’s the challenge: you have to get out of your own head before you can get into anyone else’s. (Like, oh, I don’t know…a character? They can’t all act/think/speak just like their authors, if the story is any good.)

(This is the part where writing books would tell you to write this shit down. Why? So you can relive it later? Nuh-uh, this is a GAME, and it won’t be FUN anymore if you make it too much like WORK. Besides, if you play only in your head, you can play in public…this broadens your target candidate base exponentially. Mwuahahaha.)

Give it a shot, and let me know what you think.

*Why “game”, when most people call it a writing “exercise”? Because one of these things sounds like way more fun than the other, that’s why.

4 thoughts on “Writing Game: Get in Their Heads

  • I did this in my first novel. My MC has an aunt who is not a bad guy, per se, but she’s not a pleasant person either. She is described by other characters as “an opinionated thing” and someone who “doesn’t get along with anyone.”

    But when Kalyn complains about her aunt to her mentor, Joshua tells her that she and her aunt are a lot alike: they are both strong-willed women who “believe in the absolute correctness of [their] opinions with what can only be a genetic predisposition.”

    And he’s right. The only difference between the two of them is that Kalyn sees the best in people and Norma tends to see the worst. (Well, that, and Norma’s bossy.)

    But playing with a character like Norma is actually rather fun. While she’s not evil like my main antagonist, she still creates problems. More than that, it’s harder to deal with her *because* she’s not evil. When you’ve got a murderer gunning you down, your course of action is simple: shoot first. When you have an irate aunt bossing you around–because she’s honestly trying to do what’s in your best interest–it’s much harder to know how to handle the situation.

    • Exactly! Bad guys aren’t always “bad”, they may just behave in a way that impedes or troubles the protagonist, thus getting painted with the “bad” brush by the protagonist.

      I like your point of view!
      Thanks for your comment.

  • I liked what you said about how often the people we don’t like are the people we don’t get.
    And I agree, characters must be able to be someone else… every good author tries really hard to avoid using a clay from him/her self.

    Judging from the book covers you have, you obviously have a lot of ppl you don’t like 🙂
    Amazing how many books you have managed to accomplish

    Best of luck, and thanks for your advice.

    • Thank you!
      I don’t always write the people I don’t like; I do find it helpful to try once in a while, though. It’s one of the easiest ways to really get outside yourself.

      Thanks for your comment 🙂

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