In college, I was a theater major and auditioned for plays and musicals every chance I got. Whenever I was assigned a new role, one of the first things I did was write a character description.
What is a character description, you may ask? Basically, it’s a detailed summary of who your character is. It includes general data, like where they were born, their age, and how many siblings they have. But a great description goes even further; it delves into deeper things, such as their likes, dislikes, interests, fears, motivations, weaknesses and strengths. It includes a back story – what were they doing before being introduced to the audience? What kind of work did they do, who are their friends, what things happened in their childhood to shape who they are now?
This process was always a great way to roundly develop my character. Once I knew Inspector Barnes’ (Bells are Ringing) or the First Fairy’s (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) core qualities, I could then determine how she would act when faced with different situations.
It’s such a valuable and effective method that I encourage my clients to do it as well.
What is your character? What drives you? What are your strengths, shining assets, and capabilities? What are your fears, weaknesses, and foibles?
Write these things down. Explore them. Write about the times you handled yourself well and felt proud afterward. Write about your flaws and how they’ve affected you in the past and how you’d like to overcome them in the future. Write about your idiosyncrasies, like how you hate tomatoes but love ketchup, or how repetitive noises irritate you or how you dislike puppies but realize that’s cruel so you pretend to like them to avoid judgment from others. Remember, your character description is the raw, true telling of who you are, not who you’d like to be.
During sessions with my coaching clients, it’s not uncommon for them to admit, “I had no idea how to react in that situation,” or “I felt uncomfortable, but I didn’t know how to assert myself.” In instances such as these, it’s so helpful to revert back to your character description; it’s like having a written record of who you are, an instructional manual that details your own behaviors and traits.
We all get thrown into situations that surprise us. None of us performs at our highest level all the time, and none of us can predict the future; but by thinking deeply about our unique, personal characteristics ahead of time, we can at least be prepared for it.
Becoming thoroughly familiar with your own, real-life character is an incredible valuable process. And of course, the more deeply we know ourselves, the more effectively we can interact with the world around us. ♥