This is actually a writing exercise I’ve come across before, and always thought it was dumb. However, for the first time ever, I finally actually realized how brilliant it is.
The realization of this came to me while watching Avengers. I have never read comics (aside from Johnny the Homicidal Maniac), so I don’t know too much the background of how these guys all came together in the comics (they did do that, right? This isn’t just a Hollywood stunt?). I began contemplating how each creator woul dhave to know, truly know how each character would react to each other, and also know how to play each of the other characters as well.
Then for some reason, I found myself wondering just what in the Hell was in Tony Stark’s pocket. I wondered if Robert Downy Jr knew when he was playing the roll, if the script-writers knew, if the director knew. My guess was that Hulk guy – whatshisname – probably was wise enough not to keep anything of importance in his pockets, since if he Hulked out then he’d just lose it all when he grew and shredded his trousers (but then again, why buy expensive clothes, either?)
What about Captain America? Does he keep with him some picture of some lady (again, I don’t know the background of this guy. Didn’t even see the movie. I kinda think he’s a weenie) from his World War ____ past? Does he cary shoe polish? What about a harmonica?
Then there’s that red-headed chick, Scarlet Johannson’s character. She doesn’t really seem to have any pockets, but she carries something with her. She carries her background with her. What did her past self carry?
So, for the moment, I am contemplating my character, Antralyse, who I’ve been getting to know for a few years now. He is an elf in a very technocratic setting. He’s an assassin, and poisoned. So, what does this dark, secretive assassin carry on his person?
- Sword (Bitches love swords!)
He is a skilled assassin. Of course he’s going to have a sword – hell, he might even have a pocket-sword, that collapses into a cell phone – oo! Not a bad idea! – but either way, as is expected, he has a sword. Since this comes with the profession, I suppose it really doesn’t count.
- Under the seat of his motorcycle, he keeps his necessities, such as fake ID’s, money from different regions and so on. However, he also has a tiny, pocket-sized little red book. In it is a dead language, known only to few of the world, and it is hand-written. Between the pages are several different pressed flowers. What is this thing??? (Don’t worry, I know exactly what it is)
- A hankie is tucked in a pocket of his helmet. He doesn’t like bleeding, in the unlikely event he is hit. He is very tidy, and blood is not.
- In his jacket pocket is a pocket knife. It has dulled with time, but he also carries a sharpener. It is more sentimental, a reminder of his one “human” connection of emotion, his friendship with his partner, who gave him the knife simply because the sun was shining. At the time he was annoyed with the gesture, found it to be a woman thing. Yet he could not seem to remove it from his jacket pocket without returning it.
- A vial of elixir. No more can be said about this, since it might give part of the story away.
These are 5 – well, 4 and a half – things that are one my character. I had to make some stuff up to complete this exercise. What benefit did it give me? I had to make some stuff up.
It gave me a bit more depth to my character than I had already developed, and made me get to know him a bit more.
I sometimes struggle with making my characters three dimensional, never minding the fourth dimension of background, past, and scars. I can write about them, hint at them, but do I actually know about them? Am I actually able to have the whole back story there and plotted out? What was his relationship with his grandparents? Why does he have so much against women? Do I know these things, or are they just fact?
Defining what a character has in their pockets/on their person I think forces the writer (or, at least me) to contemplate more than just what they want to show. Do I have to tell the background of the mystery language book with pressed flowers? Nope. But it’s fuel in case I – or Antralyise, for that matter – get in a bind.
What’s in your characters’ pocket(s)?