Creating characters for stories is never an easy thing to do. It’s not easy to just come up with a character off the top of your head and slap a name on him or her and call him or her ready to go. Creating characters are much more complex than that. Essentially, writers are creating real living, breathing, and well rounded creatures, just like human beings, and breathe life into their characters. They come with full backgrounds, families, personalities, looks, likes, dislikes, and so on just as real people, such as you and I, do. In order to create believable, honest, and real characters for your stories, you have to practice at building people out of nothing. You can pull ideas on characters from everywhere around you: people you know, people you see walk passed you, yourself, and every corner of this Earth, as well as from your imagination.
Let these writing prompts for this month help you gather ideas for the characters you wish to create and write about. Get to know these characters as if you were meeting someone new for the first time. Know your characters as well as you know yourself, your family, and your friends. Characters are just strangers that come into your life and you, as a reader and as a writer, get to know them better than you know anyone else on this Earth.
Here are the writing prompts on creating characters for the month of February:
- Write a story/scene/poem/etc. in which the main character is based on yourself, but when you’re 55-70 years old. How have you changed? What is your personality and demeanor like, as opposed to now? Have you accomplished the things that you wanted to? What do you look like? Where do you live? Who are the people in your life?
- Write about someone who hides his or her, physical or emotional, pain in the work they do. Does someone notice and try to help them with getting rid of the cause of the pain?
- Write about a main character discovering his or her doppelgänger. How would your character react? What is the doppelganger like personality, physically, etc?
- What emotions motivate your character’s journey? Show us without saying the emotion. Have someone read it when your done and see if that person can distinguish which emotion motivates your character.
- How did your character overcome their obstacles and set backs in the story?
- What would your character say, or how would your character react, if his or her dark secrets were aired for all to know? Show us in a scene or two, or simply write out a summary.
- Would you consider your character a threat to others? Write a summary or brainstorm of how your character is a threat, and how your character is not a threat.
- What do you think your character’s breaking point is? How would you show that in a scene?
Get to Know Your Characters:
Background and Family
- Unearth your character’s roots. What is the character’s ancestry or cultural background? How does ancestry shape your character? Is the character at odds with family traditions?
- Write a series of short paragraphical biographies of each of the character’s closest family members: spouse, children, parents, grandparents, siblings, close friends, etc.
- Write a monologue in which your character summarizes his or her life story; be sure to write it in the character’s voice.
Motivations and Goals
- What motivates your character? Money? Love? Truth? Power? Justice?
- What does your character want more than anything else in the world? What is he or she searching for?
- What other characters or events are interfering with your character’s goals? What obstacles are in the way?
Flaws and Fears
- What is your character’s single greatest fear? How did your character acquire his or her fears?
- What are your character’s flaws and weaknesses?
- How does the character’s fears and flaws prevent them from reaching their goals?
- What does your character look like? Make a list and include the following: hair, eyes, height, weight, build, etc.
- Now choose one aspect of the character’s appearance, a detail (bitten nails, frizzy hair, a scar) and elaborate on it.
- Write a short scene in which your character is looking in the mirror or write a short scene in which another character first sees your character.
- How does your character feel on the inside? What kind of person is your character and what does the character’s internal landscape look like?
- We don’t always present ourselves to others in a way that accurately reflects how we feel inside. We might be shy or insecure but come across as stuck-up and aloof. How do others perceive your character?
- Write a scene with dialogue that reveals your character’s external and internal personalities. Good settings for this dialogue would be an interview, appointment with a therapist, or a conversation with a romantic interest or close friend. Write the scene in third person so you can get inside your character’s head as well as the other character’s head; this will allow you explore how your character feels and how he or she is perceived.
Enjoy these writing prompts. May they bring you insight and understanding into your own characters. Write on, my fellow writers and readers.