Get To Know Your Characters: Some Fun Character Writing Prompts

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

by AlexKerhead
Maybe you just finished NaNoWriMo, and the protagonist you started the novel with completely changed in the middle--and not because of the experiences he or she had either. You have lost sight of whom your character is. Or maybe you have a new idea for a novel, but because of the holiday season, you're waiting to start chapter one. How about some character work instead?

So, why not take some time this month to get to know your characters better? Here are three writing prompts you can use:
  1. Your Protagonist and Antagonist Walked into a Bar. . .If your protagonist and antagonist both arrived at a bar at the same time, what would happen? Write the scene: would they argue? Would they throw things at each other? Would one avoid the other? What would each notice about the bar? If you're writing a middle-grade novel, it doesn't have to be a bar--make it the library or the park. The important thing about this exercise is that your protagonist and antagonist are arriving at the same place at the same time. How will each one react? And what will each notice?
  2. 20-Minutes of Fame: What would happen if your main character had 20-minutes of fame? First, you need to decide how this would be possible. Would your character be a hero and rescue someone from a burning building? Or would he try out for a reality show? What gives him his fame? Second, how does he handle it? How does he act? What does he say and how does he feel? Once you let your main character experience 20-minutes of fame, then you can do the same exercise with other characters in your novel, such as the antagonist, sidekick and mentor.
  3. Dreaming: In general, I'm not a huge fan of dreams in novels. The reason why is I feel they are used a lot and very rarely move the plot forward. But I do believe in taking some time to consider what your protagonist and antagonist dream about--at night or even during the day. Dreams can reveal what each character is hiding in his or her subconscious or what characters are worried about. So, basically, you're writing down a few dreams you think your characters would have--you decide how much detail to give each. 
If you decide to do any of these prompts and want to share your results with us, please leave a comment! Do you have a favorite prompt you do to get to know your characters? Let us know.

Margo L. Dill teaches novel writing classes and has written two of her own. To check out her classes, go here: . To check out her books, go here:


Karen Cioffi said...

Margot, using the 'what ifs' is a great way to get a story started and moving forward. Thanks for the tips.

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