MC’s garage sale (Author Toolbox)

This exercise creates questions. Will all the answers show up in the novel? Probably not… but the answers will help us better understand our character.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been trying to think of a blog post for this hop since I published last month’s. Our county-wide garage sale is this weekend (face masks and social distancing… plus lots of sanitizer), and organizing everything has helped me have time to think.

We moved here in 2014. Before that, we (my husband, Josh, and I) had lived in seven different places. We celebrated our 12th anniversary yesterday (July 13)!

Before that, I had moved around my entire life, not living in any one house for more than two years. He had moved a few times.

Last year, I decided to participate in 40 Bags in 40 Days, which finally gave me the push I needed to go through decades of memories stored in boxes and totes.

When we moved in, we piled everything into the converted garage and left it until we needed it. Five years later, there were still things we hadn’t needed… Go figure.

The picture on the left represents everything (minus several totes of books) that I had planned to sell in the county-wide garage sale last year. Unfortunately, it rained that weekend, so I made the excuse to wait until this year.

Well, we all know what happened this year. The sale was set for April, but it was postponed until July. Now, I’ll be taking extra precautions and still hoping to sell everything. (I know there are naysayers due to COVID-19, but please refrain from any negative comments.)

What does this have to do with writing?

Great question!

As I said somewhere up there, “…organizing everything has helped me have time to think.” I started thinking about my teenaged Main Character, about her story, about who she is as a person.

I started asking her questions, too. (Luckily, nobody else is in there while I’m organizing… They might think I’m crazy!)

  • What would you put in a garage sale?
  • Would you sell this?
  • How much would someone pay for your memories?
  • What is the oldest thing you’d have in the sale?
  • Would you help your mother on sale day?

She wasn’t very helpful for pricing my own stuff, including a slew of children’s clothes from newborn to child’s small… My kiddos are now 10 and 6 (both with upcoming birthdays), so it’s definitely time to get rid of these baby clothes!

Sorting kid’s clothes… I went back to separate the 2T-4T later.

All that to say, this could be a useful tool in getting to know our main character. We look at their past memories, their present mindset, and their future goals.

How does this work exactly?

You are full of great questions today!

To start this exercise, grab your favorite notebook and pen (or document to type). Title your page “(MC’s name) Garage Sale” or something like that.

Next (and this is important), you need to take on the persona of your MC — write in first person point of view from your MC’s perspective. This helps you gain true insight.

Finally, make a list of things your MC is putting in the garage sale. Under each item, leave a note as to your MC’s thinking regarding that item.

My MC (Macy) decides on her garage sale items.

As you can see from my list, there are some stories in there that I need to look into. What is so special about that elephant? What did she make with beads, and why doesn’t she use them anymore? What posters does she want to get rid of?

This exercise creates questions. Will all the answers show up in the novel? Probably not… but the answers will help us better understand our character.

From here, we could do several things:

  • write mini stories (flashbacks) to help answer these questions
  • make a list/write about what our MC will do with earned garage sale money
  • write some dialogue between MC and a customer regarding a prized possession for sale
  • write from the customer’s POV
  • write about an encounter at the garage sale when MC’s friend comes over and sees something being sold that they gave MC (eek!)
  • etc…

There are numerous ways you can use this exercise. I hope you find one or more that work for you! This could also be a useful tool to help clear writer’s block if you need it.


If you make your list, please share it and tag me on Twitter! Did you find this exercise helpful or gain some amazing insight to your main character? Share with me in the comments!

Author Toolbox

This post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop (hosted by Raimey Gallant), which is dedicated to helping writers become stronger and more confident in their craft. Click here for more information, to continue hopping through other posts, or to join in!

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13 thoughts on “MC’s garage sale (Author Toolbox)

  1. What a fun post. I had a similar experience when we converted our bungalow to having an upstairs. Everything had to be cleared out of the attic and half the house! So it was stored in my parents garage for nearly six months. After the six months I realized I had no picked up anything from the garage! So why was I storing it all? So without opening bags or boxes I donated it all. It was very cathartic unloading stuff. Then moving to Canada I did it again. A purge is good for the soul. Knowing our characters is a must and this is a great exercise. Thanks

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I wasn’t convinced with your approach … but I loved the prompt about the blankets and why you have so many! Now that would be an interesting topic to write about. What a refreshing way to get inspired to write.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m not sure what you mean, but I’m glad you like the prompt. 🙂 If my MC is anything like my youngest child, then she has collected blankets since she was little, going so far as to ask everyone for a blanket as a gift at birthdays and Christmas.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I had to laugh a little because my books are set in the 7th C, so a garage sale didn’t quite work. But the idea of what would you keep, what would you not, resonated, because for a different reason, that’s happening with one set of possessions for my family in the #WIP. And it is an interesting way to see what your characters think.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL! I guess they wouldn’t have had a garage sale way back when. I like that they’re having to come up with what to keep or not, though. Our characters will definitely tell us 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That was a fun roundabout way to develop your character! I love it! I was giggling through all of this read because it’s something I could easily see myself doing. Thanks for the idea. I guess my garage isn’t going to clean itself and now I can put it on my calendar as a more of a writing/development day? This. Was. Too. Good.

    Liked by 1 person

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