Some writing exercises turn into…well, exercises. I write every day because something useful always burbles out. It might only be a word or a phrase, sometimes 5,000 words, but always something. On occasion I’ve just made pretty swirls on a scrap of paper that became the visual kernal of a new idea. Point being, writing something every day works for me. Doesn’t work for everyone. I like that.
I like diversity. Thank goodness we don’t all write the same tripe and shmear.
When I’m doing this writing practice I produce all kinds of things: lists of words I want characterize to use, places they should go, things they should or shouldn’t eat, terrible things I might have happen to them, wonderful events that pass them by, and dialogue they probably won’t ever say (but what if they did!). It let’s me know my characters better and occasionally produces something fun that makes it into a story.
I also like to flesh out my settings. I collect pictures of places where the story takes my characters. I make maps so I can visualize the route they drive and the alleys they slink through. I draw floorplans (kudos for all those drafting classes in secondary school) so I know how it feels to walk down the hallway and if they can see the front door from the dining room.
Good characterization takes time and effort, like story it should be layered in varying depths. Sometimes it’s good to slap it on like foundation on Tammy Faye, other times a few light strokes are all you need. Atmosphere and ambience are delicate things – too much drowns the reader, not enough makes them move on to someone else’s story.
I like all this stuff because in the end, I write these stories for me. It’s great when somebody else enjoys them too but all the detail is about how I envision the dialogue, the setting and the plot. If you haven’t tried it – write something every day. Start with one minute and see what happens.