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Guest Post: Kim Briggs–The No-Limit Character Shopping Spree

Kim BriggsImagine it: Someone hands you a credit card without a limit and says, “Go nuts.” Oh, the possibilities…oh, the Fluevogs, Ariats, Justins, and Keens. I might even stop and pick up a new Patagonia jacket, and there’s that…Wait a minute. That’s my shopping fantasy, not my character Gigi’s. Gigi would head straight to the Army Navy Surplus store. One cannot own too many pairs of cargo pants with those functional pockets that can store pepper spray, spare lighters, and spray paint. She also needs some new laces for her black combat boots. On the way home, she’ll stop at the pet store for dog treats. Injured strays tend to show up on her front step, so she likes to keep her pet pantry well stocked.

Our possessions mark our personality. Our character. We should take the time to develop our characters’ closets before we start writing. We would leap at the opportunity to take one No-Limit Shopping Spree. In fiction, we can take as many as we want to whatever store we can imagine, in whatever country we’d liked to visit. First the Eiffel Tour, then Naboo, followed by a quick stop over in Ancient Rome. The possibilities are endless.

We pack suitcases for a trip, even if it’s an overnight. We need to take at least that same amount of time to develop each of our character’s closets. Is your character lactose intolerant? Is he allergic to tomatoes? Does she prefer old black-and-white films to anime? Are her parents alive, or does she move from foster home to foster home? These are questions you should know well before you begin writing your story or as early in the writing process as possible.

But fear not! You’ve been given a No-Limit Shopping Spree. Take each of your characters shopping, and you might discover that one prefers a traditional day planner to an online phone calendar app. She’ll also need several new Speedos for her early-morning swim practices. Her boyfriend prefers to spend his evenings snuggled up by a fire with her and a tray of s’mores, so be sure to stock up on those supplies, too.

Enjoy the bonding experience with your characters. You might make some unexpected discoveries. Maybe you’ll happen upon a new direction for your story. So go on, get shopping. Take your characters from drab to fab. This trip’s on me.


Kim is a TA at our upcoming workshop, Capturing Character, Hear Their Voices. There are still seats available, and the manuscript deadline is May 20.

Posted on: April 19, 2017