The other day I spent some time at a local hospital with my sister. While there I made the mistake of leaving my purse behind (this is not the first time I've left it, but that's totally besides the point). Security called me and I arranged for my sister to pick up the purse. When she started talking to the security personnel she was told that based on the contents of my purse I must be a fascinating person with one officer wondering how it was possible that I got so much stuff into one purse. (It's a Mary Poppins thing).
This reminded me of a character exercise I thought I'd share where you define everything that is in a character's wallet, purse, backpack, bat belt, whatever and consider what that says about the character. Is there a condom at the ready? A punch card which has never been filled, or is filled and not used? A picture of a child or an ex lover? How many credit cards do they carry? What's on the cards? What does it say about them?
I've not used this exercise in a while, but having lived a version of it recently I've started applying it again and it's fun to see who someone is as seen through the lens of their wallet. So there's your challenge gentle writer, take your main character and dump their wallet out on the table. Decide what they carry and why and see how this informs the character and how they work in the story. You might be surprised at what secrets can hide in the depths of a purse.
And for the curious my purse held: flower shaped buttons, a headband, some random electronic cords (no idea what those go to, but I might need them some day), two thumb drives, a coupon book, 3 writing notebooks, a variety of pens, chapstick, an iPad with a cracked screen, a half crocheted baby dress and extra yarn, scissors, bandaids, emergency feminine supplies, a book of checks, M&Ms in a ziploc baggie and some random receipts. Mostly I think that says the owner is a geeky writer who likes M&Ms and craft projects, but take from it what you will.