Have you ever re-read what you just wrote and thought: gosh this is boring?
Do you ever worry that your characters are flat, one-dimensional snores?
Are you looking for a way to infuse some life into the people you create on the page—but aren’t sure how to do it?
Sometimes writing exercises get the proverbial juices flowing. It’s likely that you did personality sketches already and probably created an arc for your main characters. But if that’s still not enough to infuse them with life, try working through the prompts below. By the way: “working through” doesn’t mean doing these in your head. Get out an actual pen and pencil. Write the first things that come to mind. This is brainstorming, not perfection.
For these exercises, imagine getting into your character’s head. The idea is to get to know these people better. Although knowing what someone would do in a situation is useful, it might be more revealing to imagine what they wouldn’t do. For instance, answer:
-I would never do….
-I don’t want to talk about….
-I’ll never do ___ again. Ever.
Maybe you think your character has no scruples. But is that accurate? Even generally amoral people *think* they have lines they won’t cross. Will your character surprise himself by doing something he never thought he’d do? Will she have to make a Faustian bargain? You’ll never know if you don’t do the exercise.
Imagine that your character keeps a journal and that you can page through to the juiciest parts. What would he write? What is her biggest embarrassment? How does he really feel about his best friend/mom/lover? What does she hope happens tomorrow? Does she have goals so personal and secret that she won’t share them with anyone else? What does she fear will happen if she does share it? Does he really trust his girlfriend around his best friend? What is on her private bucket list?
Now imagine that you overhear gossip…about your character. What do your character’s friends say about her when she’s not around? What do they know about his private life or business or life choices? What do they have to say about it?
Does she come across as stuck up? Does he seem like a know-it-all? Do her friends think she’s a doormat, when in reality, she’s quietly bold? What are your character’s blind spots?
Now try breaking and entering. What’s in her purse? What’s in his nightstand or under the mattress? What websites does she visit? How does he spend time online? Who do they communicate with the most? What do those text messages or interactions look like? What’s her closet or car like?
The key with these exercises is to be as expansive as possible. Don’t limit yourself by censoring or having to get it “perfect.” You might use the results of some of these prompts in your novel, or maybe you’ll just keep them to yourself and use them to add dimension your character’s interactions. If you’re stuck or you need to add color, these are good ways to brighten your story.