This is a workshop I did with the girls I’m working with at Bailey’s Cafe. It’s partly inspired by a similar activity Tayari Jones was tweeting about a little while back. The ideas they came up with were terrific.

1. On one page, write the best (or one of the best) things anyone’s ever said to you. On the facing page, write the worst.

2. Create a character for each phrase. Start with the basics: Name, age, physical description, magic powers, how they dress, how they act, what they do. Draw a picture. Then come up with a setting for why they said the phrase, who they said it to, what it meant, etc.

3. Now switch the two. The “Best Thing” character now said the worst thing, the “Worst Thing” character now said the best thing. Explain why.

4. Share what you came up with. Discuss the process and reactions.

The exercise gets at character work and conflict, two pillars of good storytelling. Inherent to the setup, you have complexity of character and conflict. It also raises issues of expectation, stereotyping, physical attributes and inner life.