Use Writing Prompts to Dig into Character Development

Monday, March 04, 2019

I subscribe to several different e-newsletters (including the one for WOW!) and always find a treasure trove of information in them when I finally sit down to examine the contents. One of these newsletters is Re: Fiction. They run a free monthly writing contest with a number of fun prizes for the winner, and e-newsletter subscribers get early access to the contest. I’ll be honest and say that some of the prompts are so clever and creative that I have a hard time coming up with an entry!

But the one in January arrived right as I was working on character development worksheets for my two young adult novels. After some head scratching, I came up with some answers for the prompt: “What are the top 10 resolutions your characters would make?”

I typed up some resolutions and printed them off and added them to the worksheets I had in the stack for a thriller novel I’m working on where the main character has sensory challenges. I didn’t end up winning anything in that month’s contest, but I still found the exercise helpful to my character development. Below is what I wrote:

Character’s Name: Cassidy
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult Fiction

Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions:

A Resolution to Survive My Crazy Life

1. It’d be nice to get through one day without thinking of my perfectly imperfect ex-boyfriend Luke and his beautiful blue eyes.

2. One goal is to make peace with my father, who moved away after he ran his business into the ground and forced us to declare bankruptcy.

3. I would like to get through my first 10K race without puking during the third mile.

4. I want to figure out why I agreed to run the above race with my personal trainer mother in the first place.

5. Figuring out what I need to study in college so I can become like one of my heroes on the TV show “Criminal Minds” should be high on my list.

6. I want to learn more about Dylan, the hottest boy in school who also happens to be stalking me, and figure out why no one else seems to realize he’s a psychopath.

7. Resolution: to sit through an action movie on the big screen without feeling like my eardrums are going to explode.

8. I’d like to be able to tolerate wearing eye shadow without feeling every bit of the tiny grains of shimmery powder falling into my eyes.

9. I’d love to be able to leave my house without checking every inch of my car (including the trunk and underneath) to make sure I’m alone.

10. I have to learn to sleep again without being afraid of what I’ll see in my dreams.

I encourage you to check out any newsletter that will provide you will helpful articles, resources, contests, market listings, etc. And I’ll give you a hint and tell you that this month’s Re:Fiction newsletter contest prompt also involves a character development exercise. So get subscribing and writing!

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who also works as a marketing director for a nonprofit theatre company, where there’s no shortage of drama! Visit her website at


Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--What a great writing exercise. You accomplished doing some character development, along with something else: you convinced me to buy your book when it's published, because Cassidy is a compelling character... a character I want to read more about.

Renee Roberson said...

Thanks, Sioux! Perhaps I should save this for bonus marketing materials for *when* book sells. (Being optimistic!)

Angela Mackintosh said...

Yay! Tal is a WOW subscriber and WOW's new website programmer. Re:Fiction is her site! I think I mentioned it on our Butt-Kicker boards. Thank you for sharing your experience with her site. :)

This is a fantastic exercise! I can relate to Cassidy. I've never liked eyeshadow. Number 6, 9, and 10 is dynamic and where the story's at! #5 sounds like you. ;)

I imagine this would be a great exercise to try with all your characters. Maybe even in memoir, for "characters" other than yourself.

Nicole Pyles said...

This is great! I love the details you added about your character, she sounds so interesting! Prompts are a fantastic way to build the character actually, I hadn't thought of that!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

You'd really have to think about your character or all of your resolutions would be generic - lose weight, declutter, be less boring...

Renee Roberson said...

Angela--I couldn't remember if Tal was WOW's designer or programmer, but I knew she was involved somehow so I figured you wouldn't mind a plug for :-) I'm sincere in that a lot of the prompts stump me but I was happy this one came just at the right time. Cassidy is sort of an amalgam of my daughter and if we're to be honest, me!

Nicole--I hope this inspired you, and the people besides myself find her interesting. I've definitely added some depth to her since I've been working on character development exercises.

Sue--Yes. I was worried the one talking about her training for a race would be boring, but it speaks to dynamic between Cassidy and her mother so I kept it in!

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