Creating Characters Using the “Magic If”

In college I was a theatre geek (notice how I spelled the word “theatre”… the correct way 😉 ). For a while, I was a Theatre Education major. During this time, I learned about the theatre “greats,” one being Konstantin Stanislavski.

Konstantin Stanislavski MAGIC IF

Studious-lookin’ guy, isn’t he?

We learned a lot about how he revolutionized acting methods. In fact, if you count yourself one of his followers, you’re called a Method Actor.

So what does this have to do with writing?

We can actually learn a lot about creating characters through Method Acting. For example, one aspect of Stanislavki’s lessons revolves around The “Magic If.” This is where you become the role you’re trying to create by asking yourself Magic If questions, mainly “What would I do if I were in this situation?”


If you ask yourself how you would react as your characters, they will become more real to the reader.

Here are 4 tips for using Stanislavski’s “Magic If” in your character development:

TIP #1: Using the “Magic If” opens your mind to a world of possibilities for your characters.

TIP #2: Using the “Magic If” creates empathy inside yourself, so you can create with understanding and compassion.

TIP #3: Using the “Magic If” helps you stay in the moment, creating the “Illusion of the First Time” when you write the characters. (NOTE: Your characters can easily become ‘old hat’ to you, since you know them so well. The “Illusion of the First Time” makes them fresh on the page and exciting to the reader.)

TIP #4: Using the “Magic If” helps you come up with unique gestures and dialogue. Find your characters always biting their lips when nervous? Winking when flirtatious? Using the “Magic If” reveals to you what YOU would do in those situations, which helps you avoid clichés in writing.

What did I miss?

Share other ways you could use the “Magic If” in your writing!

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