Character Layer

Character Layer

What is it?

In this game, players physically take on their character layer by layer. We start with our feet, move up through our legs, into our torso, out to our hands, and up to our faces and heads. The goal is to feel how the character moves and also to take on emotion or circumstances from the character's perspective. How does it feel to stand in their shoes?

How to Play:

This game depends on physicalization, so even in online settings, it's best to push through any resistance and stand up to play.

First, move around the room the way you normally walk. Call “freeze.” Do this a few times quickly and also use creative types of movement to transition into a playful state. Once you’ve become involved in the game, begin to add the character layer by layer. Use prompts to help the writer build the character from shoes to legs to torso to hands to posture to face.

Once your writer(s) is/are in character, facilitate with prompts to move the character into a setting and character specific action. Use settings from the story, familiar settings, unfamiliar settings, comfortable settings, uncomfortable settings, a space where the character practices a specific skill, a space where the character relaxes, etc.


In a one-on-one, in-person setting, the resistance to overcome is that your writer will be moving around the room and feeling as though you're watching them as they do so. For that reason, try standing up and moving as your character at the same time as they do to diffuse any awkwardness.


Move at the same time as your writer, as you might in person. Or, prompt them to move away from their screen to try the exercise and return afterward. Then, discuss what they felt and noticed.


All the players can stand up and move outside the reach of their camera to do this exercise. In groups who enjoy acting, you can also do a modified seated version where each writer "performs" as their character and the others ask questions or offer observations about the character.


During in-person play, players should move around the room at the same time, staying in their own space so that each can do their own thinking. This game is extremely efficient, as it allows the facilitator to coach all of the writers through character-specific thinking at the same time. After the game, it's a great idea to gather and discuss what players noticed. Often their insights will spark ideas for one another.


If players lose focus while acting as their characters, focus them by having them strike specific poses at the height of key moments, such as a proud moment or a disappointed one.

Alternate Uses:

Compare/contrast: Players might physicalize the main character and then the antagonist to explore their physical, mental, and emotional similarities and differences.

Idea Generation: Try asking players to make the opposite character from the one they create first in this game. Often exploring the opposite can yield interesting and unexpected ideas.