Today, in lieu of an actual post [ie, me talking and rambling about my day and all that], I’m going to give some writing prompts from my fiction writing book, “Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide from New York’s Acclaimed Creative Writing School.”
Here’s the prompt:
Go out into the world and find a character. Observe someone you don’t know, like a fellow diner in a restaurant, or someone you know only a little, like the bank cashier you see once a week. Talk to him or her, if you like, though you don’t have to. Make some notes, mental or written. Then fill in the unknown blanks of this person by answering all or most of the suggested questions on the preceding pages. You’ll be making up most of the details, but that’s okay. This is fiction.
Here are the questions:
First, the obvious get-to-know-you questions.
What is your character’s name? Does the character have a nickname?
What is your character’s hair color? Eye color?
What kind of distinguishing facial features does you character have?Does your character have a birthmark? Where is it? What about scars? How did he get them?
Who are your character’s friends and family? Who does she surround herself with? Who are the people your character is closest to? Who does he wish he were closest to?
Where was your character born? Where had she lived since then? Where does she call home?
What does your character do when she’s angry?
What is her biggest fear? Who has she told this t? Who would she never tell this to?
Does she have a secret?
What makes your character laugh out loud?
When has your character been in love? Had a broken heart?
And now, some more…personal…character questions.
What is in your character’s refrigerator right now? On her bedroom floor? On her nightstand? In her garbage can?
Look at your character’s feet. Describe what you see there. Does he wear dress shoes, gym shoes, or none at all? Is he in socks that are ratty and full of holes? Or is he wearing a pair of blue-and-gold slippers knitted by his grandmother?
When your character thinks of her childhood kitchen, what smell does she associate with it? Sauerkraut? Oatmeal cookies? Paint? What is that smell so resonate for her?
Your character is doing intense spring cleaning. What is easy for her to throw out? What is difficult for her to part with? Why?
It’s Saturday at noon. What is your character doing? Give details. If he’s eating breakfast, what exactly does he eat? If she’s stretching out in her backyard to sun, what kind of blanket or towel does she lie on?
What is one strong memory that has stuck with your character from childhood? Why is it so powerful and lasting?
Your character is getting ready for a night out. Where is she going? What does she wear? Who will she be with?
So answer those questions, and there you have a character that you know almost as well as yourself. You don’t have to include all of the answers to the questions when you’re writing about that character, but when you answer the questions, you know how your character will act and react to things and why. That’s an important question in writing: why.
Have fun with those questions. Go be creepy and watch some random person.