As you may have gathered, I travel. A lot. So I figured — why not take a look at my travel experiences and see what brought out the biggest differences among my companions? That way I can steal from our adventures and use it for character chemistry in my writing. (If you travel with me, there’s an 85% chance this will happen. That’s the risk you take being friends with a writer-person.)
Even when you’re traveling with great people, there are subtle conflicts and compromises along the way. If you’re less lucky, those little adjustments can become stewing rage or explosive fights. Travel brings out the best and worst of people in a trapped environment (there’s no easy way to just leave a travel buddy), so it’s a good context to consider when you’re thinking about character chemistry.
Though your characters might not be traveling in the book, it’s helpful to think about what they would do in these circumstances. These exercises can warm you up for writing dynamic scenes, even if your characters are questing in a juggle, not in a luxury hotel.
Last note: I recommend having 3+ characters in the mix, just to make things fun, but really you could just do it with one or two characters.
10. Your characters are ordering at a drive thru. How do they decide where to eat? Who does the ordering? Does one character keep interrupting during the order?
9. Your characters are in a luxurious hotel and they’ve just got in the room. What do they do? Find the slippers and put them on? Check to see what sorts of soaps/shampoos they have? Bounce on the bed? Order room service? Look at all the prices on the room service menu and laugh, then cry?
8. Your characters are in a taxi cab. Do they try to engage the cabby in conversation? Do they begrudge every word the cabby says? Do they talk amongst each other, or sit in silence?
7. Your characters are in a museum. Who is stopping to read every plaque? Who is breezing through? Who hates the crowded parts but lingers in the empty spaces? Whose biggest concern is the nearest cafe? Who is most excited about the shop? What do they want to buy — postcards to remember (or brag about) what they saw, expensive scarfs, or pins and novelty gifts?
6. Let’s take that last one a step further. Your characters are in an art museum. Who is bored? What paintings make your characters laugh? What paintings make them cry? What are they looking for when they browse the paintings — random dogs, ugly babies, costume design, emotion? What do they notice first in a particular painting — composition, color, oddities?
5. Your characters each plan one day of their itinerary. What do they want to see? Who only chooses zoos to visit? Who wants to do museums? Who likes castles, manor houses and architecture? Who wants to tour local cuisine?
4. Something goes wrong (a bus doesn’t show, the trains are delayed, a special site is closed for weather/renovations). How do your characters react? Who gets angry? Who stays chill? Do they argue, and what do they argue about?
3. Your characters are lost in an unfamiliar place (potentially without a working phone). Who asks for directions? Who wants to just wander? Who strategies? Who panics?
2. Your characters have been hauling luggage all day and one of them is completely exhausted. What do they do? Does someone offer to take the extra load? Do they soldier on while inwardly steaming? Do they stop to rest?
1. A street musician is playing up ahead. Do your characters stop to listen? Do they give money? Do they look around suspiciously for pickpockets? Do they dance? Do they avoid eye-contact, or even turn off the street earlier to go a different way?
What travel experiences have you had that brought out big differences among your travel companions? Share in a comment so we can get more ideas for character chemistry!