Saturday, September 30, 2017

100+ Blocking Ideas for Your Characters

No, I'm not talking about blocking in a fight. I'm talking about the theater term. Last year, I went to New York City after attending Realm Makers in Pennsylvania to visit my cousin who is pursuing her career as an actress. The two of us went to see a Broadway of The Phantom of the Opera. I loved the play as a whole (cause it's Phantom of the Opera on freaking Broadway), but we did have to admit there were some weird blocking issues (such as cleaning an apple on the inside of one's thighs and crawling on one's belly on the floor. I don't know why. XD). Blocking is the movement that the actors are supposed to be doing either during dialogue or when they're not doing anything so they're not just standing there awkwardly. 

Some great examples for blocking are in the Lord of the Rings and Avatar: The Last Airbender. I can think of many scenes where Aragorn is sharpening his sword or cleaning a deer, Sam is cooking, Sokka is taking a sip of water or working building armor, and Aang is feeding Appa just to name a few things. The characters are always doing things that are realistic and relevant to the scene. 

Since I just went to the opposite side of the country for the same conference in July, I got to thinking about my NYC experience again. Blocking is completely applicable to writing. We don't want our characters just standing or sitting awkwardly all the time during rest points in the story. They should be doing something and it's logical for them to be doing something while resting and/or during a long swath of dialogue. So I came up with a list of fifty different blocking ideas for your characters, so we don't have them twiddling their thumbs or rubbing apples on the inside of their thighs. Now I organized this list by genre, just to give a sense of order but these things can go across genres easily.


  • Picking Nails 
  • Cooking: Stirring food; turning food; chopping vegetables or meat; slicing bread; kneading dough; tasting food; adding spices or salt.
  • Picking Scabs
  • Shaving 
  • Brushing Hair 
  • Styling Hair: Applying gel; straightening hair; braiding hair; twisting hair into a bun; applying hairpins or other such accouterments.
  • Cleaning the Area: Sweeping; dusting; picking up trash or other out of place items; wiping counters; mopping; cleaning a spill; scrubbing.
  • Eating: Peeling fruit; cutting food; sipping soup; biting into fruit; applying butter, jam, or sauce; dipping food; chewing; swallowing.
  • Drinking: Steeping tea; stirring drink with straw; sucking on ice; taking a sip; smelling the cup; stir drink with spoon; draw in glass condensation; wipe mouth; adding sugar or cream.
  • Getting dressed: Pulling on shoes; tying shoes; putting on jacket; buttoning shirt; pulling on gloves; buckling belt; tying tie; putting on hat.
  • Undressing
  • Wound Maintenance: applying salve; cleaning wound; changing out bandage.
  • Smoking
  • Paying for something
  • Chewing Tobacco 
  • - Creating something: drawing, sketching, painting, woodwork
  • Fixing something: fixing a leaky tap, oiling hinges, replacing screws, etc.
  • Serving a meal: setting the table, refilling glasses, collecting plates, passing trays of food
  • Gardening: picking flowers, arranging flowers, weeding, trimming trees/bushes
  • Exercise: walking, hiking, running, stretching transporting something (like stacking boxes or carrying the groceries)
  • Bouncing or amusing an infant 

Contemporary/Thriller/Modern Setting:

  • Brushing teeth 
  • Putting on makeup: applying mascara, blush, eyeliner, foundation, etc.
  • Driving: put on turn signal, changing gears, braking, turning on windshield wipers. 
  • Nail maintenance: trimming nails, buffing nails, filing nails, painting nails, removing nail polish, blowing on nails or waving hands while nails are drying.
  • Cleaning car 
  • Brushing snow off of car 
  • Chewing gum
  • Multitasking with various electronics: scrolling through phone, tapping around with laptop keys, etc. 


  • Churning butter
  • Sewing
  • Wrapping yarn 
  • Brushing down horse 
  • Weaving 
  • Feeding animals 
  • Weeding garden 
  • Making bullets 
  • Building a fire
  • Plowing
  • Sheering sheep
  • Cleaning game: peeling skin; gutting; cutting off meat. 


  • Alchemy/Healing: mixing potions, refilling potion bottles
  • Sharpening weapons 
  • Waxing bow
  • Making more arrows 
  • Gathering more arrows 
  • Oiling leather 


  • Cleaning gun
  • Reloading bullets
  • Vehicle maintenance: changing oil, refilling gas, running diagnostics, making repairs, replacing parts, oiling machinery.

Conclusion - Now I called this list 100+, because if you have any ideas to add to the list, let me know in the comments and I'll put them in!

Do you have any more blocks to add? Do you have any questions about the types of blocking I listed or blocking in general?

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Extending Your Novel: How to Make the Story Longer Without Just Adding Fluff
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