This term at Hendon Writers, we’re shaking up what and how we write. These workshops are ideal for writers stuck in a rut, writing stories about the same old themes, with the same old characters saying and doing the same old stuff.
Today’s exercise is all about introducing your character on social media. Next week, you’ll bury your character up to their quivering jowls in some classic social media beef.
Exercise #1: Creating your character’s profile
Creating a social media account involves consciously choosing how we present ourselves to others. We select the labels we apply to ourselves, which profile picture to use, and which celebrities to follow. What we share about ourselves, and what we don’t, says a lot about who we are and how we want to be seen.
Remember Hemingway’s Iceberg Theory as you work your way through this exercise. Your character will omit a lot from their profile, and even the things they include are only the most superficial expressions of deep-seated character traits and identities.
For instance, if a character describes himself as a ‘father’, you might ask yourself why your character identifies himself in this way. What kind of father is he? Is he genuinely a committed parent, or does he only wear the t-shirt? Does he indulge his kids, or is he authoritarian? Even the choice to say ‘father’, rather than ‘dad’ or ‘pop’, says something about who this character is.
- To begin, come up with a character who might be motivated to use Twitter (or another social media platform, if you/your character have a preference). For example, the character might be using Twitter socially, to pursue a particular interest or agenda, or it may be a ‘professional’ account.
- Next, write a bio for your character. On Twitter, that bio can be up to 160 characters long, so stick to this if you can. Often, Twitter bios read like a list of identities or roles that person wants people to know they have (e.g. “I love God, my husband, my three boys, and my country. Not always in that order. But always.”). Others can be fabulously terse (e.g. Andy Murray’s bio is simply, “I play tennis.”). Think about these identities, and the identities your character conceals or doesn’t prioritise, as you complete this section.
- Once you’ve written a bio, think about the character’s profile picture and header image. If you want to get fancy, you could source actual images. Alternatively, you could write the “alt text” for these images (i.e. text a web browser will display if an image cannot render, or for people who use screen readers).
- Finally, think about who the character might follow. What interests are they prepared to admit to, and which celebrities do they admire (or otherwise)? Do they follow freely, or do they take the Theresa May approach (who, until recently, followed just one account — the Conservative Party’s)?
Once you have all these details clear, you’re ready to start using Twitter (or whatever) on your character’s behalf.
We’ll get into this more next week, but for now you might want to try writing a few tweets/posts as your character. What will your character’s first tweet be? What might they pin to the top of their Twitter feed? Try to stick to Twitter’s 280 character limit, and think about how, when, and why your character would use social media.
Until next time… toodle-oo!