Before we dive in, I want to let you know about a wonderful writerly conversation that I got to have last week with the ladies at Marginally Podcast: A Podcast about Writing, Working, and Friendship.
It was a fun conversation and we talked about damn near everything there is to talk about when it comes to writing and making it fit around our daily lives. You should definitely check out that episode if only for my characteristic liberal use of the f-bomb and nerdy soliloquy to my process journal. I hope I get to chat with them again soon!
All right! On to this weeks topic!
We’ve talked pretty extensively about characters the last couple of months and if you’ve purchased The Basic Character Creation Workbook, you probably feel you know your characters upside down and inside out. But for some reason, you’re still struggling with white page syndrome. This, wordmakers, is a classic case of analysis paralysis.
Listen. I totally get it. It happens to all of us. In fact, I’m there right now.
This is the point when I like to do a focused free write.
What is a focused rewrite?
A focused free write is loosely defined as writing without stopping about a specific topic for a set amount of time. I first discovered free writing when I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. She recommends an exercise called morning pages where you sit down and write three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing first thing in the morning. I’ve been writing morning pages for years and I decided it might be a good practice to employ for those days when I’m fighting that hateful blinking cursor.
You can either set a timer for fifteen or twenty minutes or write until you fill the page. But the most important thing to remember while you’re writing is to WRITE FROM YOUR CHARACTER’S POV. These prompts and questions are a lot more effective if you use them this way to find your character’s voice and set the tone for your novel.
Creative Writing Prompts
- Childhood memories can shape a person and can potentially effect how you relate to the world. Ask your character to describe one of their earliest childhood memories.
- It’s very easy to find things that you don’t like about yourself, but so much steer to point out things that you do like. Ask your character what they see as one of their best qualities.
- Religion and a relationship with a higher being can give your character purpose or drive them to dedicate their lives to sin in every form. Ask your character about their religious beliefs. Are the same ones that they had as a child? If so, why? If not, how and why did they change?
- Personality traits are often attributed to where a person falls in the birth order, while certain negative traits have been assigned to only children. Is your character an only child? Ask them about how they feel about that and what benefit that see in it. If your character has siblings ask them about the pros and cons of sharing their parents with brothers and/or sisters.
- People are often changed by love, but some are initially resistant to the vulnerability of being in love or they believe that even the slightest crush is love at first sight. Ask your character if they have ever been in love and if they have, how did they know?
- Even the most confident person can be plagued by insecurities, especially when it comes to body image. Ask your character if they are insecure about some part of their body and in what way does that manifest. If they aren’t insecure, ask them why they are confident about their physicality. Did they work hard to get that way? Or are they comfortable with their body regardless of their level of fitness?
- Being comfortable in your own home is important to humans. And more than likely, there is a room in your home where you feel especially happy or cozy. Ask your character which spot is their favorite and why.
- The class valedictorian is often admired from afar but folks rarely ever get to know them. A coworker who always seems to overdeliver keeps everyone in the office on their toes. Ask your character if there is a fellow student or coworker that they admire.
- You can’t be friends with everyone and more than likely, there is one kid in your school that you couldn’t stand for whatever reason. Or you have that one coworker that never pulls their own weight. Ask your character about the worst classmate or coworker they have ever had.
- Adversity builds character. Ask your character to tell you about a time when they succeeded at something because they just refused to give up.
- Every city or town has its own culture, it’s own vibe. The residents of that city or town often embody that in their slang, their dress, and the type of music they like. Ask your character if they are a typical representation of the people from their home city or town. Or if they’re different, explain how and why.
- Kids often tend to have a favorite toy or game they like to play. Ask your character what their favorite toy or game was when they were a little kid.
- Don’t set your purse on the floor or you’ll stay broke. Don’t cut a baby’s hair before their first birthday—they’ll have “bad hair” and bad luck. If your right palm is itching it means you’re going to get some money, if the left palm is itching it means that you will lose some. These are all superstitions and some people believe in them whole-heartedly. Ask your character if they have any.
- Birth and death can alter the dynamics of a family or friend group. Has there been a death in your character’s family or in their close-knit circle of friends? Ask your character how they were affected by that death and how it changed their lives.
- Making friends is easy when you’re a kid but it gets harder when you become an adult, especially if you’re relocating for a job to an area where you don’t know anyone. Ask your character about a friend that they have made recently. How did they meet? What do they have in common?
- Your first best friend is often the most important relationship you have as a child—outside of their parents of course. Ask your character about their best friend from childhood. Are they still friends with this person? Why or why not? Tell your story about your first best friend as a child.
- You can learn a lot about a person when you see how they keep their house or car. Is your character messy? Is cleanliness important to them?
- Some people will live and die for their city, while others can’t wait to see their hometown disappearing in their rearview window. Is your character the dying to get out or would they rather keep their lives small and live in the same fifteen to twenty-mile radius?
- What’s your character’s sign? Are they a Scorpio rising or a Leo moon? Do they fit the characteristics attributed to that sign? Why or why not?
I hope that these prompts help you defeat that dreaded blinking cursor! These twenty or so questions and others are available in The Basic Character Creation Workbook now available on Amazon.
For the next couple of months, we’re going to pivot a little bit to talk about that age-old bit of writing advice, “show, don’t tell.” We’ll go over when to use this bit of advice, how to use it, and how it relates to character development.
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