Have you ever mixed up the pieces from multiple games or multiple puzzles? The result is a mess! However, mixing up characters can be the key to getting out of a writing conundrum.
Occasionally, I will have a character who absolutely refuses to do what I want him/her to do. No matter how hard I try, he/she will not do or say what I envisioned in a way that feels believable. The reason is usually that he/she is underdeveloped. In most cases, I am able to get to know the character better by asking and answering a series of questions. In other cases, though, I am too focused on the story’s needs to be able to honestly answer the questions for the character.
Your writing prompt for the next two weeks is to learn about your characters by taking them out of their world.
1. Choose two characters from different pieces you’ve written and put them together in a scene that takes place outside both of their stories.
2. Choose one of the following situations to start the scene:
- Put them in an interrogation room together. (One could interrogate the other or they could both be interrogating a third character.)
- Have them go on a blind date. (Be sure to give some thought to the setting.)
- Give them a task to accomplish. (It’s best if the task requires two people.)
- Give them a problem to solve. (There must be consequences if they fail.)
- Have the characters tell their stories to each other. (I did this with one of my villains from “The Four Crystals.” Wow, the story was different from that point of view.)
3. Write the scene keeping both characters true to their personalities.
4. Read through the scene and note some of the following:
- How did the two characters interact? (Were they friendly, civil, or hostile? Could they work together? Etc.)
- Who took the lead?
- Did either of them dominate the conversation?
- Did either character have a key mannerism or phrase?
- What was each character’s primary goal in the scene (i.e. what was most important to each character)?
- Did either character have a predominant emotion?
- What did your characters do or say that surprised you? (For example, when I did this exercise, I discovered that one of my supporting characters was oblivious to her leader’s flaws. Going into the exercise, I knew that she was a very loyal follower. When she was talking to another character about her leader, I realized that she believed her leader to be infallible.)
*I would like to thank sci-fi and fantasy author Olivia Berrier for sharing this writing exercise with me and for walking me through how to do it.
Did you know that Dr. Seuss, Albert Einstein, Harry Houdini, Big Bird, and Barbie were all born in March?
Both Coca-Cola and the rubber band were invented in March.
Uranus was discovered in March, and the first spacewalk happened in March.
From a holiday standpoint, March hosts St. Patrick’s Day, Purim, and sometimes Easter.
And best of all, March is the month in which spring returns to the northern hemisphere.
March is a pretty exciting month.
You’re writing challenge for the next two weeks is to take one or more March related people, things, or events and write a story.
My grandmother recently passed away, and one thing that really stood out to me in the aftermath of her death was how differently everyone in my family grieved the loss.
I’ve learned that there’s no right way to grieve. The grieving process varies from person to person based on a number of factors including, but not limited to, personality, the relationship between the deceased and the surviving person, and the circumstances surrounding the death.
Some people want to pack everything up and move on. Other people need time to look at photos and objects that belonged to the deceased. Some people talk about the loss, while others joke about ironic parts of the situation. Some people cry buckets, and others don’t shed a tear. Some people focus all their energy on taking care of others’ needs, and other people curl up in bed or in front of the TV. Some people want to do something to honor the deceased’s memory, and others don’t want to think about the loss. Working through grief is incredibly individualized, and everyone grieves at their own pace.
Your writing prompt for the next two weeks is to write a scene in which your protagonist loses someone close to him/her and/or to write a series of scenes covering the week after the death. Below are some things to consider when writing.
- What was the protagonist’s relationship with the deceased?
- How does the protagonist handle his/her grief?
- Was anything left undone or unsaid between the protagonist and the deceased?
- What else is happening in the protagonist’s life (e.g. finals, an upcoming move, layoffs at work, etc.)?
- How are other people with whom the protagonist comes in contact grieving the loss?
- Make sure some sort of conflict arises as a result of the death. It could be as simple as two people’s grieving styles conflict (e.g. one needs to clean up and move on and the other needs time to process the death). It could also be that a longstanding feud or slowly building irritation comes to a head or that deceased had a secret that now comes to light.
I would like to dedicate this post to my grandmother, Margaretha Betz. Thanks for everything, Oma. I love and miss you.
Ever read a book or watched a TV show or movie where a character was just too sweet, or too good, or too, well for lack of a better word, perfect? Those characters are boring to read about and watch because they aren’t relatable and don’t have room for growth.
I have found three activities to be especially helpful when assigning a flaw to a character:
- I go to the core of who a character is by identifying his/her deepest desire, strongest belief, and biggest fear. I then select a flaw that fits that type of person.
- I look at a character’s strength(s) and then ask myself, “What is the negative side of this strength?” For example, a compassionate character could be overly sensitive.
- I delve into the character’s past and look for any event that could count as traumatic. I then assign a flaw that developed in response to that trauma. For example, a character who was robbed might be paranoid or have trouble trusting.
If you’re looking for more ways to give your characters a much needed flaw, I recommend that you read Now Novel’s article “Character flaws: Creating lovable imperfections.” It covers three different types of (perceived) flaws: physical, emotional, and ideological. It also talks about how those flaws could repel and attract different characters and how a flaw could cause a character’s feelings about another character to change, for better or worse, during the course of the story.
For a great writing exercise for finding a character’s flaw, read Gail Carson Levine’s blog post “Nobody’s Perfect.” She uses the fairy tale “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” to demonstrate how to do the exercise and has three writing prompts at the end of the post.
For an extensive list of personality flaws, check out “123 Ideas For Character Flaws” by Writers Write or get a copy of The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.
A few weeks ago, some writer friends and I watched an animated movie musical together. The music was not original, and the plot and characters felt like they had been created to showcase the songs instead of the songs being used to move along the plot and character development.
The movie inspired us to do a just for fun writing prompt to kick off 2019. Each of us wrote down the titles of five of our favorite songs. We put the slips of paper into a container and then each picked out five songs. We said that we would each write something that incorporated our five random songs in some way.
Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to take five unrelated songs and work them into a piece of writing as seamlessly as possible.
Writing Prompt Guidelines:
- You can write whatever you want (a short story, a musical, a poem, etc.), but it must contain all five songs.
- You may incorporate the songs however you would like (song titles, lyrics, themes, etc.).
Ideas for How to Choose the Five Songs:
- Ask a friend or relative to name five songs.
- Turn on the radio and write down the first five songs that are played.
- Pick five of your favorite songs.
*Warning: Songs are copywrited, so do NOT publish the result of this prompt. This prompt is just for fun and to get you thinking outside of the box.
The holiday season can be a time of great joy or a very difficult time depending on a person’s circumstances.
Your writing prompt for the next two weeks is find your inspiration through your joy.
- Do a 10-15 minute free write about what makes you feel alive. (A free write is where you write down whatever pops into your head without censuring or editing it. The goal is to write continuously for the full 10-15 minutes.)
- Read over what you wrote, and find the theme(s).
- Write a poem, song, or short story with the same theme.
Have you ever noticed how everyday things can be the best inspiration? I recently got two parakeets: first Orville, then Wilbur a week later. Orville was lonely, so it seemed like the right decision to get him a brother.
It struck me that my interactions with my birds were a lot like the way I develop characters for a story. I got Orville for companionship and planned to let our relationship develop based on his personality, but I got Wilber to fill a hole in Orville’s life. (I had a function and name, all that was missing was the character.)
Once Wilbur joined our family, Orville’s true personality came out. The quiet bird who let me hold him, became a vocal hand-avoider. As a result, I had to re-think the way I was training both birds.
My parakeets have been so inspiring to me, that I’ve decided to turn them into characters for a picture book. I have several ideas for the theme, but it could still change.
Your challenge for the next two weeks is to use something new or ordinary from your daily life as the foundation for a picture book, short story, or poem.
I’d love to know what your inspiration is and whether you will be writing a picture book, short story, or poem. If you’re comfortable sharing, please post in the comments below.