Character Exercise

file000291677773If you don’t follow Brain Pickings you are really missing out. It’s a fun site with tons of interesting stories, often with a literary bent. I recently saw this article about a man named Foster Huntington (awesome name, right?) who started a photo series about the things people would want to grab from their house, should it catch fire and burn down. You can see the photo series or submit your own at his website, here.

The website says:

If your house was burning, what would you take with you? It’s a conflict between what’s practical, valuable and sentimental. What you would take reflects your interests, background and priorities. Think of it as an interview condensed into one question.

For me, the answer is easy: my son, my cats, my husband, diaper bag. If I had time and presence of mind, I may also grab my boxes of old letters and pictures, the stuffed frog my husband bought our son on the day he was born and the quilt my grandmother made for me when I was little. Everything else is replaceable.

Then I thought about what my characters would take. In my current WIP, the MC is a budding actress who runs a fan site for a popular TV show, Phantasm. Here’s her list:

  • laptop
  • external hard drive with all the fan site back-up files
  • script from junior year performance of Beauty and the Beast with margin notes, signed by whole cast
  • Limited Edition Phantasm box set
  • Picture of her and sister, Anne, at Anne’s first ballet recital
  • Bracelet BFF Lily brought back from her family trip to Guatemala
  • Snacks, because hunger is hard

What would your characters (or you!) take with you? Feel free to let me know in the comments or answer on your blog and comment with the link!


Share My Wisdom:


  1. Jennifer Pickrell says:

    I actually have a scene in my WIP when the smoke detector goes off (b/c someone burned food). My MC’s brother panics and his first instinct is to drag her to safety. I feel like it says a lot about their relationship b/c normally they’re fighting/clashing and being typical siblings.

  2. Kris Atkins says:

    Hmmm, Lia would take her necklace from her mom, her phone and … that’s it, I think. She’s not very sentimental about her possessions at the beginning of the book, and not at all at the end. I promise I really, truly thought about it! 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      Haha, I believe you!

      I think some people are really not that stuff-oriented. I think that’s why my list is really just all the living beings under my roof, along with the bag that holds a few necessities. I would really only go in for the extra stuff if the fire wasn’t that bad. People/pets > stuff.

      My MC, though… she likes her stuff, haha 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      Well, it’s really cute, haha… that’s not really the reason though 🙂

      It would be just enough to get us through a day or so of caring for Jack, plus I keep my wallet in there so I’d have my ID and bank cards, etc. I think it’s the only practical thing on my list!

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