The creepiest (and best) creative writing exercise for character-development

Writers are constantly asking: “how can I write believable, compelling characters?”, “how can I write realistic characters?”, “how can I write characters with depth?”
The answer is, it takes practice: and here’s one way to do that.

Characters are strange things. As writers, we like to think we’re in full control of our characters, that we decide who they are and what they do in a given situation. We like to think that we’re masters of their destiny. But this is a writing exercise that’ll make you think a little differently about the imaginary people we use to populate our stories, that’ll help you get to grips with their particular traits and foibles, and could just freak you out a little along the way.

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Writing mugshots – how a reprehensible website could make you a better writer

I’m always looking out for unorthodox writing exercises, and one I struck upon recently has become a bit of an obsession, though something of a guilty one. is a site that publishes every mugshot released by police in the US. It’s a very strange place, splitting mugshots into categories like ‘hotties’, ‘winos’ and ‘tatted up’. The whole thing stinks of the attitudes that underlaid falacies like phrenology: the returning idea of a ‘criminal class’, now divided into easy-to-navigate categories.

Here, comments sections have the atmosphere of a public pillory.

The website makes revenue from advertising, but also links to several services that charge to remove your mugshot from public documents, which is apparently not extortion.

This is a shady site, no matter its pretensions to being some kind of instrument of transparent government.

That being said, this is humanity. These are humans, and for a writer, this is an invaluable source of material for character creation. 

So this is how a reprehensible website could help you become a better writer.

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