Character Brainstorming Tricks

Ever get stuck trying to flesh a character out and decide to use writing prompts to get some context? Prompts are a great way to flesh out bits of a character you don’t always think about. But if you’re like me, you write fantasy, and basically all writing prompts and character exercises are about contemporary worlds. Here’s a few designed to help you build more rounded characters in fantasy worlds. Several of these can be used in contemporary worlds, as well, with minor tweaking.

1. Your character is standing at the edge of a battlefield.

What do they feel? Why are they there? What do they do when confronted with the sight? Write two paragraphs explaining their emotional reactions, their goals, and their actions, including at least some explanation of why this battlefield matters to them (i.e., maybe it’s an old battle where a family member died, or a recent battle they fought in, or a recent battle they didn’t fight in but are now stealing from the dead bodies of).

2. Your character comes face to face with a creature they thought was a myth.

How do they react to this strange creature? Do they call it by the mythical name, or assume their myth is false and try to investigate? Do they run, think they’re dreaming, or try to reassess their world view? Write two paragraphs explaining their experience, and in the process, give some sense of what the creature is they have come across.

3. Have your character describe something they have always wanted but never been able to have.

This can be something they can’t afford, something they have only ever heard of from travelers, something in myths and tales, or a social connection they don’t have (i.e., lover, lost parents, sibling). Make sure they don’t use descriptions they wouldn’t know (a farmer in a humid climate with low technology would have no idea what a forest fire is) and try to capture their worldview in the description.

4. Your character is hungry.

How do they get food? Do they have food on hand, and what type of food do they get? Do they have to ask someone to get them food? Do they have to go work in order to afford food? Make sure that your description includes their opinion of their status in regards to others around them, as well as how commonly they perform the steps you describe.

5. Write a conversation between your character and someone with a different world view.

The conversation can be about anything that is not their world view differences (i.e., their children, the weather, the looming prospect of war). Try to illustrate the differences in world view without directly stating them.

6. Your character has a meeting that is finally going to get them something they have always wanted or needed, but a family member gets into trouble and needs help at the same time.

Does your character go to their meeting, or help their family? Who is their family member, and how does your character feel about them in general? Write at least two paragraphs describing the decision and your character’s reactions to it.

7. Your character is visiting a new location.

Describe how they evaluate the visit. Do they notice architecture or social differences? Signs of wealth or opportunities for exploration? Write a short scene in which the only action is the character walking through this new location. Use their reactions and observations to reveal what about the location interests them.

8. What myths, legends, religions, or traditions does your character believe in?

Write at least two paragraphs outlining their views on myths, religions, and other traditions, spiritual or otherwise.

9. Your character’s closest friend or family member moves away, or, alternatively, they move away from their closest friends and family.

What does your character attempt to do on their first day without their usual support group? Write a short scene in which your character goes through their day without the people they usually rely on. Make sure they face at least one challenge they would usually go to their friends or family for help with and decide how they resolve the situation now that they don’t have that support.

10. Your character encounters someone less fortunate than they are.

Do they attempt to help the person, or leave them alone? If they try to help, in what way do they help? Write a short scene in which your character talks to someone who has suffered worse than your character and describe how your characters feels, what they do, and how they view their interaction with this person.

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