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Exercise Wednesday: Oops, I did it again

May 14, 2014

My current, neverending work in progress included a scene in which one of the main characters–a radio host–makes a comment she immediately regrets making. The regret is out of character for her–a take-charge, move-forward type of person who’s actually pretty careful with her words.

Though her regret doesn’t bubble to the surface at that point, it simmers under the hood throughout the story, helping to push her to a big decision later in the book.

Unless your main character is Jesus, he or she’s gonna screw up. And the screw ups won’t be understandable errors because of the stress you’re placing on them. Sometimes they’ll be mistakes they seem coming and make anyway–the same mistakes they’ve made and paid for over and over again for as long as they can remember.

Today’s exercise is to make a list of the mistakes your character has made in the past and is likely to make again. Not mistakes like buying the milk with the blue top because blue is always skim (except when it isn’t). I mean meaningful mistakes like losing his temper when he knows he shouldn’t, or drinking to ease the pain, when she knows it really doesn’t. Mistakes like reuniting with that old flame who’s not really a good person to be around or not standing up to a bully.

You can probably guess what next week’s exercise is.

Time limit: 20 minutes

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