The Scrivener’s Forge 5 – Character and World-building


A new writing exercise every month. When you focus on one aspect of writing at a time, you can concentrate on making it the best you can possibly create. That way you can reach a professional level that may be harder with longer works. We’ll explore one aspect of the craft each month.

If you comment on other writers’ efforts, they’ll usually comment on yours. So you get lots of critiques, advice, and encouragement.

Please don’t post your entry in comments here. Create your entry on your own blog, and then click the little blue frog to join the link-up and read other people’s work.

Character and world-building

Building a character is building a world. This may be a world of fantasy, of wizards and dragons. But it doesn’t have to be. When the physical world and the emotional world are overlaid, everyday things become new and vibrant if seen through the eyes of a character in a particular situation. How every character sees and understands the world creates their world. This is what gives a character a distinctive voice. Vivid description is a portrait of a mind thinking and feeling its way through the world. A character’s mentality is created both from the big things (someone who is fearful is surrounded by a world of threat, for example) but also from the small things (someone who is fastidious may be troubled by a neighbour’s messy garden).


An exercise from John Gardener. Write a scene which places a character in a specific location. Use the interaction between character and description to show us a unique world we’ve never seen before and that will never exist again.  A man whose son has died in the war is looking at a building. Describe the building without mentioning the war, the son, or his death.

Hint: if you’re finding this hard to approach, consider why a character in this situation might even notice a building.

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