I’ve written blogs about how important it is to get to know your character before you start writing and about using sensory imagery to create compelling characters. Now, it’s time to craft some captivating characters of your own.
Know your characters well
Before you start, let me remind you that you need to be able to answer four critical questions about your character before you get too far into your story.
~ What does your character want? This is why the story exists and what will propel their journey.
~ Why do they want it? Find out what’s motivating them. Drill down and keep asking why.
~ What’s in their way, either externally (in the world around them) or internally (in their psyche)? There need to be obstacles in the way, creating conflict and tension. Internally, they need to question themselves, their goals, and their motivation
~ What happens if they do or don’t succeed in achieving their goal? In creating original characters, knowing how the outcome might affect your character and, therefore, the story is important.
Let’s create some captivating characters!
To create characters that stay with your readers long after they’ve put down your book, you need to craft characters that are fully developed beings. Your characters need a personality, a physical description, and some backstory. That’s where these writing prompts can be helpful.
How and why?
Once we latch on to an idea for a character, it can be difficult to think outside the box we’ve created for that character. Inspired ideas are great, but they can sometimes restrict our characters’ development if we’re holding onto the idea too tightly. A character needs room to unfold completely—sometimes in ways you wouldn’t expect—and we need to get out of the way.
Using these prompts will free you to explore facets of your character you hadn’t noticed before, create exciting characters from scratch, or enliven characters that are dull.
Writing prompts are fun and effective!
Writing for as little as 10 minutes without stopping can produce excellent results.
Using short writing prompts regularly can lead to the birth of an idea, a turn of phrase, a new direction, a fascinating character, or a personal realization—and over time, you’ll create a writing practice to carry you forward.
Let’s get started!
How the writing prompts work
Without thinking about the prompt, write it at the top of your page. Now, set a timer for 10 minutes and go with your first thought—keep writing until your timer rings. No stopping, no thinking, let it flow. The key is to keep your pen moving. I recommend writing by hand with a fast roller-ball pen—pencils, ballpoints, and fountain pens are too slow. A keyboard is fine, but there’s something special about that hand/mind/heart connection, and there is less impulse to edit. Try it. You might like it!
Maybe you keep on writing after the timer rings; maybe you stop. It doesn’t matter. The important thing is you sat down and explored for a while. Keep it up. Be willing to begin again and again and watch your imagination blossom.
Don’t forget to experiment with doing these prompts for your character’s point of view. You’ll be amazed at what you discover.
Please feel free to adjust the pronouns to your liking.
These writing prompts include a phrase you can use (or not) to get started.
10 Writing prompts for developing characters
Writing Prompt #1:
Give your character a tic—blinking eyes, sniffing, facial grimacing, shrugging shoulders, tapping fingers. You get the idea.
Are they aware of it? How long have they had it? How do they feel about it?
Write about this tic in a short scene where your character goes on a first date.
“As soon as she walked through the door, she knew …”
Writing Prompt #2:
Write a scene where your character’s least favorite sibling comes to visit.
“If only their parents hadn’t adopted so many children …”
Writing Prompt #3:
Have your character talk about their first love. Was it epic? Tragic? Reciprocal?
“If only my mother hadn’t hated …”
Writing Prompt #4:
Endow your character with a physical scar. How did they get it? How do they feel about it?
“Every time he removed his pants …”
Writing Prompt #5:
Write a scene where your character finally gets what they most want. How do they feel about it now that they have it?
“I had imagined it would be much, much …”
Writing Prompt #6:
Write a scene where your character decides to do something against their better judgment, and the consequences are far-reaching.
“There’s no way she could have known …”
Writing Prompt #7:
Have your character encounter a street artist with a fascinating act. Then, write a dialogue between the two.
“That was amazing! How did you do it? …”
Writing Prompt #8:
Give your character a superpower. What is it? Where did they get it? How do they feel about it? Then, write a short scene where your character loses control of their superpower.
“Once the room stopped spinning …”
Writing Prompt #9:
Give your character an allergy to something ordinary. How does your character handle this in their daily life?
“The minute she opened the box, she knew …”
Writing Prompt #10:
Write a scene where your character’s most closely guarded secret is revealed by accident or intent. How do they respond?
“It was the most exquisite spring day, but something …”
Developing characters takes time. As your story unfolds, your characters will change, even doing unexpected things, and you’ll need to make changes as you go along to ensure the character arc and storyline work together. As you work on your characters, keep coming back to these prompts, and before you know it, you will have created compelling characters that your readers can’t forget.