I've been asked to imagine that I am a particular character in a work of literature. I must place yourself in their body, emotions, and circumstances, while still retaining my own ability to think and act. How can I identify with and agree or disagree with that character's actions?

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This is certainly an interesting essay prompt. On the upside, you have a lot of freedom in how you approach your essay. For some writers, however, this may also be a drawback. For this assignment, you will have to use your imagination and take some creative license with a piece of literature that you admire. The first step is finding a text and character that you consider interesting. Do you admire a certain character from The Lord of the Rings series? Is your personality similar to Hermione Granger from The Harry Potter series? Or do you relate to characters from more canonical pieces of literature such as The Catcher in the Rye or Things Fall Apart? The choice is ultimately up to you, but you should certainly choose a character with whom you share characteristics.

Next, this exercise calls for you to analyze major decisions your character has made throughout the course of the work. First, you must evaluate and defend one of his/her decisions. Why is your chosen character justified in this action? Next, you should criticize one of your character's actions, and elaborate on how you would have done things differently. Finally, you need to argue why your character is the most important character in the work. This may all seem daunting, but remember that you are persuading your audience to view this character the way that you do. You are making a series of arguments concerning the character and defending your reasoning with textual evidence.

As far as getting started with the writing process, I would suggest doing substantial prewriting before you begin your essay. Have you ever tried freewriting? It's a neat technique attributed to rhetorical critic Peter Elbow. All that you have to do in this form of prewriting is write uninterrupted prose. Don't stop to edit or check your spelling, just write for a set block of time. You may be able to mine a few interesting pieces from your freewrite and then edit them into something more cohesive. Additionally, I find that having a solid outline helps me when I write. The more time you put into your writing process (prewriting, drafting, revising and editing, and proofreading), the better your essay will be. 

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