To write effectively about characters, it’s crucial to thoroughly develop their fictional lives. Once you have a clear sense of who they are, you’ll be able to better write dialogue for them and describe their gestures, expressions, and habits. How does your character entertain herself, how does he dress, what does she like to eat? Even though you won’t directly incorporate every fact you develop for your character, establishing a strong background deepens all facets of your story.
- Choose a character from a story you are writing. This exercise can also work for a non-fiction essay.
- In a few words or single sentence, answer the 20 questions below about your character. Feel free to change pronouns or details accordingly. Write for 20 minutes.
- Here are the questions:
- Your character’s most prized personal possession is
- Your character’s favorite color
- Your character’s favorite holiday
- Person he loves the most
- Friends she most respects
- What people like about her
- His greatest fear
- Cruelest thing she has ever done
- What he most regrets
- Is she a planner or spontaneous?
- Her fantasy is to…
- The most damaging this that ever happened to him was
- How much money does she have in her savings account
- He brags about…
- She is afraid that people will find out…
- He lives in an apartment, condo, tract house, farm house, restored bungalow, on the streets, or ….?
- What he most dislikes about his appearance
- Her most treasured memory
- He drinks what kind of beer, wine, or juice?
- The only thing she ever stole was…
- Expand one of your answers above. Write a 10-minute short prose piece.
- In your short prose piece, circle 20 words that stand out for you. Shape these words into a poem, adding additional words as needed.
Variations for Writing Groups
- Each writing group member writes down two questions about a character at the top of a blank sheet of paper. For instance, What is the one thing your character does secretly? Describe their pet. or She will lie when…
- Mix up the papers and then choose one at random.
- Write a one paragraph response to each question. Write for 20 minutes.
Two of next week’s prompts will focus on editing and revision. To prepare, find a story, poem, or essay to revisit. You can use a rough draft or a polished piece with which you are willing to experiment.