Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

The Writer as Prop Master

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Aug• 13•16

I will be teaching a workshop Prop Master Extraordinaire at the  Willamette Writers Conference today (8/13) at 3.30. You can find the complete schedule here.

Today’s stories are visual and props help bring them to life. A prop is any object that can be moved and includes clothing, furniture, cars, and guns.

juno hamburger phonePersonal props are grand fun to invent. They’re also a handy shorthand to nail a character’s personality. And it all starts with knowing your character. Now as you write your novel this knowledge will grown, but the more you understand him or her going into the project, the easier it will be to write.

  • If my character had one adjective to describe himself it would be_________.
  • What is cluttering your character’s junk drawer?
  • What does he or she stash in the glove box?
  • What is found in his/her underwear/lingerie drawer?
  • Favorite or go-to wardrobe items.
  • Describe the contents of your protagonist’s refrigerator.
  • Does he she own weapons? Yoga mat? Bicycle?
  • What kind of car does he or she drive?
  • Does your protagonist own a pet?
  • What object in his/her apartment/home brings comfort?
  • What prop will help create empathy for your character?

TiDorothy and Totop: When planning a story, start with your protagonist, the person who will be most hurt and changed by story events.  Your protagonist —who is usually but not always your viewpoint character—is your reader’s portal into the story and the story world. The more observant he or she can be (curious, dazzled, apprehensive all work well) the more enticing the story world. A protagonist needn’t be a genius or even educated –think Huck Finn, but he does need to be accessible. 

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