I enjoy mentally exploring the worlds of the fictional characters who inhabit the scipts and stories I write. It all about discovering them rather than inventing them. One way to learn about your characters (or yourself) is to time travel.
Well, at least virtually. At Stanford University a researcher had young people virtually experience old age and asked them to decide what they’d do if their current (younger) selves were given a thousand dollars. According to Psychology Today, those with the elderly avatar put more than twice as much into long-term savings.
What advice would you give your twenty-year-old self? What advice do you think you’d get today from the twenty years older version of yourself?
To find out, set up two chairs facing each other. When you sit in the first one, you are your present self. Then move to the other one and imagine this is the twenty-years-older version of you. In this chair, what do you want to tell the current you?
You can also take on the role of one of the characters you have created. We are all formed by our pasts, so figuring out what your character regrets, what he would tell his younger self, and what his younger self would say to him can reveal a lot.
ACTION: Give this exercise a try. You can also experiment with different time periods—what would the one-year-older you or the character have to say? How about the five-years-older versions?
(If you like this exercise I think you'll enjoy many of the others included in my book, Your Writing Coach, published by Nicholas Brealey Publishing and available now from Amazon or your other favorite bookseller.)