The Longest Character Workshop Ever: Part 1

(Hint: It’s the longest one ever because I don’t have any direction for it planned, I’m just going to give you workshop assignments every other Friday until I run out of ideas.)

Part 1: The Fast Method

Did you ever play MASH as a kid? If you did, you can skip most of this and go to the instructions at the bottom.

So, you had the sort of useful, diligent childhood that meant you never wasted an afternoon and an entire notebook of paper in middle school planning your eventual life with hash-marks? Wow. I’m sorry.

Well, that’s alright, we’ll grab a notebook and I’ll walk you through the actual game before we start twisting it to our purposes. Take a piece of paper (normal sized, lined or unlined, whatever color) and write M A S H across the top of it. This stands for Mansion, Apartment, Shack, and House. Below that leave a space that’s about a third the surface of the paper.

Now it gets sketchy. See, when you were twelve you’d have written four names of people you wanted to potentially wind up with (or your friends wrote the names of the one you wanted to wind up with and three people you really didn’t). But you’re probably not twelve now, and that’s probably not a criterion you’re leaving up to a game on a piece of scratch paper anymore. Just write um…four people you’d like to meet. That’s close enough. Now write another column that’s your four preferred dream jobs. Then your four preferred cities to do them in. Got all that?

Good. Now go back to the blank space you left and draw a giant spiral at a random speed for a random designation of time or until the person you’re playing with tells you to stop. Count the spirals, and go through your sheet and count through with your spiral number. Mark off the last one you land on ever time. Do this until there’s only one option left in each category.

That’s your future. You’re welcome.

But You Said Something About Instructions: The Instructions

How does this work for writing? I’m so glad you asked. It’s almost exactly like the game you played in junior high. Only instead of potential husbands/wives/houses/whatevers you plot out your characters lives. So. I need a hero. I write down M A S H because he needs somewhere to live, obviously. And I draw a giant spiral but I don’t count it yet (I’m weird about doing things linearly) and then I exit to crazy town on the categories. Four first names, four last names, four hair colors, four eye colors, four weird habits, four relationship histories, four tattoos, four pets, four worst experiences of his life. All The Things.

Now, what you’ll discover as you do this is that what it’s the most useful for is that moment you knock something off the list and realize it was the thing you really wanted. Sort of like how nothing makes up your mind faster than flipping a coin. number of characters who are important but not fully formed in your head yet this is the method for you.

The Assignment: Because It’s Homework Time!

This is a workshop, and yes, now that you’ve read all that I’m going to tell you it’s the kind of workshop that gives you homework. You’re welcome.

So. Homework. You’re going to make a MASH and share it with the group!

Step 1: Make your Mash. Make it colorful and crazy or cramped on a piece of scrap paper. Whatever floats your boat.

Step 2: Take a picture of your mash and share it with us! Probably easier to do that by sharing it in your space and linking it here.

Step 3: Tell the class what you think of this method. Do you love it? Do you despise it with every fiber of your being? There’s no wrong answer (no really. I know that’s usually a think college professors say before you say the wrong answer, but I’m not a college professor. Go to town).

I’ll start you off with an example. Here’s my MASH.


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