In their comics creation textbook Drawing Words & Writing Pictures, Jessica Abel and Matt Madden provide an exercise called “Play Your Cards Right”. You’ll find it in Chapter 10. I’ve created a digital version to save you the work of creating your own cards.

If you don’t have the book (yet, that is, go get it! You can read more about it here.), here’s an abbreviated version of the exercise, I think you’ll still have a lot of fun.

You’re going to be developing two characters and then coming up with a story for them, all based on some random elements you’ll be getting in just a moment. First, here are your random character cards for two characters. No take-backs, no reloads… use what you’ve been given here. I know your creativity will be up to the challenge.

Your Character Cards

Character 1

Occupation:

Personality Trait:

Physical Trait:

Character 2

Occupation:

Personality Trait:

Physical Trait:

Now, spend about five minutes developing each character. You can work on this alone, or get a friend and do one character each. Think about the character’s physical description (name, age, sex, etc.), the characters personality/professional history (education, relationships, etc.). Make sure you take the given occupation and physical trait into account. You’ll find a lot more questions to help you develop your character in the book.

If you’re working with a friend, describe your characters to one another. If they seem mismatched to you, come up with a scenario in which your characters could know each other.

The Story Spark

Story Spark:

Using your characters and the story spark, come up with a story scenario. Maybe your characters are opponents, maybe they’re friends, maybe one of them is the hero and one is a sidekick. Your story spark must be used to start the story.

There are more helpful hints in the book, if you’re having trouble. You and your friend (or just you) should really work to examine your story and create something you’d really love to turn into a comic. I recommend actually creating that comic once you’re happy with your story. You might end up with a story and characters that will make you rich and famous. You might just have a lot of fun. Working on your own, this might be a good way to create a 24-hour comic (that’s when you create a 24 page comic in 24 hours, here’s more information about the 24-hour comic experience).