15 Prompts to Make Your Characters Miserable

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Life isn’t perfect and I think it would be boring if it were. The imperfections, accidents and annoyances we go through are what make those good moments so welcome when they do show up.

Your characters should be living the same way. By all means, if you think you can write a book about a perfect person for whom nothing goes wrong, take a stab at it. But for the rest of us who write about humans, something needs to go wrong to make your readers happy, the morbid bunch.

Putting a character into an annoying situation could and should display something about their personality and their life. If you, the writer, feel like you don’t know who your character is, see how they react when something doesn’t go their way.

I’m sure we can all think of bad things that can happen to characters, but if you need some guidance, try these on for size:

  1. A bicyclist runs into his car the day he buys it.
  2. Her boss takes credit for her project and gets a raise.
  3. A college kid pours a beer on him at the bar.
  4. She stubs her toe as she tries to catch her dog.
  5. He sees his waiter fail to wash his hands in the bathroom.
  6. Her boyfriend breaks up with her through email.
  7. During his lunch break, another student hocks a loogie in his chicken nuggets.
  8. She accidentally steps on someone’s foot on the dance floor and the stranger calls her a nasty word.
  9. While she’s walking into the theater, someone spoils the ending of the movie she’s been dying to see.
  10. She mistakenly drinks the old milk after failing to throw it out.
  11. His roommate comes home drunk and gets sick in the living room.
  12. He steps on a Lego brick his kids left on the floor.
  13. Someone knocks papers out of his hand and leaves without helping him pick them up.
  14. The people at the table next to them keep screaming at a game on a television.
  15. Someone beats her to the last swing on the swing set.

Of course, if you’re a writer, you’ll be able to think of many more annoying circumstanced to throw your characters in that will test them as people. We all grow as a result of the situations we survive, petty or otherwise. In this case, art should imitate life. What better way to make your readers really get behind one of your characters than by having them grow together as a result of hardship. Plus, have you ever stepped on a Lego brick? That’s some Lovecraftian pain.

Have a good time making your creations miserable and never stop writing.


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About Author

John Paul Schmidt is a former news journalist. Now he's a freelancer by day and bartender by night while he works on his novel.

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