Character Prompts
Charlotte Rains Dixon  

Character Prompts

I've been struggling a bit with my new novel.  I've gotten to know my main character quite well and I adore her, with all her foibles and faults.  But, amazingly enough, she is not the only character in the novel.  I know, shocking, but there it is.  Other characters are giving themselves up to me fairly easily (there's a guy from Denmark that I'm really starting to like, too). 


A very, very important character remains a mystery to me.   She's like second in importance to the main character, so I kinda need to know her.  And I've convinced myself that I kinda need to know her before I get much farther into the writing of this novel.  (Although, if I give the impression that I've made a lot of progress, that is, alas, simply not true.)

So this morning I took myself firmly in hand.  Every day this week it has been delightfully chilly in the early hours of the morning, when I rise, so I make coffee and feed the cats and then light the fire and sit by it and write.  This morning I set myself a plan for all the things I need to know before I can really let myself rip on the first draft of this story.

And chief among them is, of course, getting to know this character.  And so I wrote a list of what I'm calling character prompts, for lack of a better phrase.   I got this idea from novelist Darnell Arnoult, and I think the first two prompts on the list are hers.  The rest of them came off the top of my head, so who knows if I read them somewhere or thought them up myself.  The idea here is to set your character in motion.  You'll be amazed at how much you learn if you put your character in action using these simple prompts.

For instance, take, "reading."  Sedentary activity, right?  But also an activity that your character could do inside, outside, in bed, in a chair, on the couch, in a park, at the beach, and so on.  And then there's the kind of books the character might like, whether they are fiction or non-fiction, trashy romances or YA novels.  Or maybe she eschews books to read only on her Kindle or Ipad.  Or doesn't read books, but pores over the internet for hours.  And for each of these preferences, there's probably a back story that goes along with it, and all this adds up to a window into your character's psyche.

So here's the list of character prompts.  Feel free to add some more good ones  you think of in the comments.

Write about your character:

Under something

Fixing something

Hiding behind something

In the kitchen

In the bathroom

Watching TV

With a pet

Relaxing after work

Building something

Taking an art class

Going on a hike

Listening to a lecture

Driving a long distance

In the park

Doing laundry

Working on the computer

Doing a hobby

Building a fire

In the garden

On a boat


0 thoughts on “Character Prompts

  1. Ledger D'Main

    That’s a good list, however I wouldn’t call them ‘character prompts’, I’d call them ‘story props’, to be used when characters are speaking to break up a long narrative. Afterall no one stands perfectly still when having a conversation, everybody fidgets somehow…in my current story, which will never be completed, I’m having a lot of character conversations when they are drinking whiskey, or smoking, and a lot of them adjust their hats,…too bad nobody wears hats, or drinks or smokes anymore, kind of takes away a lot of the easier ‘story props’…in one of my longer short stories I had a third tier female character who was diminutive and obese, and one of the character traits I tried to give her was that she always repeated her first sentence…I think of that as a character trait, much the same as someone who lies, cheats, has a pendant for wearing the same outfits, or phobias or a physical imperfection.

  2. Charlotte Dixon

    Ledger, I actually wrote this post with you in mind, seeing as how you thought I should share more about what I’m working on. I did a little. Just a wee little, granted, but a little.

    So we can also add a character smoking, drinking whiskey, wearing a hat, and with a phobia (mine is fear of heights) to the list.

  3. Ledger D'Main

    Always happy to cause trouble

  4. […] Character Prompts […]

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