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Please read this list slowly and carefully, considering not only the individual prompt but ways to bend it. You'll get much more out of it. (Thinking about specific characters and/or listening to your book's theme music while you read may help.)
This list is designed mainly to give ideas for characterization-related scenes. If your issue is more along the lines of "I don't know where I'm going," then this may not be as helpful. While you can read this anyway, meditation and logic are usually the things that work best.If this gives you an idea, write it down!
It's a long list, so you don't want to risk forgetting anything.
Not all of these thoughts and ideas will apply to your story, but perhaps one can give you an idea! I encourage you to modify the ideas below to better fit your characters' unique situation. This is just meant to get the ideas flowing. Let's get started!
- Two characters are stuck under a bridge because it is raining and they forgot to bring an umbrella. This is perfect for potential couples or two characters who had a falling out and need an opportunity for reconciliation.
- A character is babysitting his/her siblings. Perhaps something bad happens next.
----> An accident (keep in mind realism/likelihoods and such) or a child getting lost
----> A plot-related emergency; now your character has to drag his/her little siblings into something!
- A character is angry and finds art/music as an outlet, perhaps with the guidance of another character.
Potential reasons for anger:
----> A character said something mean about someone else
----> A character promised this person something and didn't follow through
----> An authority figure (ex. a teacher) made an unwise or unfair decision
----> A loved one did something stupid.
----> Someone made the character look bad.
----> Teamwork failed; a group dumped too much responsiblity on this person (eg. for a school/work project; this could be tied in with the idea above)
For any pianists, I recommend the first movement of Beethoven's Sonata Pathetique. Then go to the second movement. (Look them up on YouTube in a new tab!)
- The antagonist/villain hears of a failure of a friend/relative/minion and needs to step in.
----> A mission failed.
----> The friend/relative/minion had an accident (such as falling off a ladder) and needs help
----> The f/r/m was dumped at a dance and doesn't have a car to drive home (best for a sister)
----> The f/r/m was captured by the good guys!
- How much have you developed your antagonist's motivations? Have the antagonist discuss them with an underling/friend.
- Explore the setting, perhaps by taking a character for a walk.
- It's time to go shopping! Show some of your character's normal life (characterization). Perhaps bump into someone at the mall, too, or have someone (annoying?) come along.
- An anonymous person (the antagonist? a secret sympathizer?) gives a phone call to the protagonist...
- Your protagonist's mom or dad decides that it's time for a little family outing. First they're having a picnic, and then they're going to the ice cream shop. This may or may not be a good idea...
- A stray dog follows a character around while he/she is walking through town. (This is realistic. Stray dogs often show up in poorer towns and are common in ghettos.) This could happen to a protagonist, a more minor character, or your antagonist.
----> If this is your antagonist, there are many more ways to do things than having your antagonist kick the dog. Try showing some dimension. That will make your story much more realistic.
- Tension is probably building up throughout your book. That has got to be stressful. Two characters with different opinions might get into an argument.
----> A sensitive character (involved in the fight or watching) might try to leave during/after this and run off where nobody can find him/her for the time being. This might cause some anxiety or panic in the other characters.
- Does your antagonist have any friends? I hope so. Perhaps that friend (who may be oblivious to the evil plot) makes a surprise visit! Overly maternal aunts are also excellent surprise visitors.
---> Even better, your antagonist relies on this person for something, so he/she doesn't dare offend the visitor, despite the fact that this is a dreadful inconvenience. Lots of silent annoyance and muttered sarcastic remarks ensue.
- Do you have a particularly gruff character? If so, what's that character's "weakness?" (By this I mean something that can get through the gruffness every time, which the person may or may not consider a weakness, although the villain may be able to use this against him/her. For example, your character might love children and is good at telling them stories, or love his/her dog to the point of spoiling it. These things are always sweet and make for lovely characterization.)
- "Excuse me, I'm looking for Rose." Someone needs to find a character (for advice?) and asks around.
----> The perfect way to torture a handsome guy is to make him ask some eligible girls about where to find another girl. I still relish the scene in which I did that.
- Do any of your minor characters feel left out? Is this significant to your story? Show a scene from that person's point of view.
----> For a twist, have that person become embittered and aid/become the antagonist!
- That one couple (or those two people who think they're meant to be a couple) decides to go on a date. Restauraunts, theme parks, and movie theaters/plays are all options.
----> Maybe a character who loves one of them or a little sister comes and spies on them. (Maybe they notice him/her.)
----> Maybe an (irritating?) friend or antagonist comes and ruins it.
- Who is eccentric? Maybe put in a scene showing or explaining that eccentricity. Can you think of any ideas related to this?
- A big plot-related event coincides with... a big test. And your protagonist thought it couldn't get any worse.
Big Picture Ideas
- Consider the multiple tropes and stereotypes that you tend to see. Do any of your characters exhibit these basic personalities? If* so, perhaps consider non-stereotypical traits that they also have. Is the nerdy boy genius good with animals? Is the shallow diva a good listener when need be? Yes, despite the stereotypes on TV, everyone needs to feel loved. Consider ways to develop and build out your characters beyond their labels.
*This could be better replaced with "when."
- Do you remember why you put each character into the story? (If you have a character without an excuse humor is an excuse for being there, you may have an issue.) Consider your characters' roles and relationships. How can you build out these ideas?
- What's your theme? If you don't know yet, figure some ideas out. Consider how you can build it out. What are the main, memorable points you want to build out in your story?
- How many ways can you torture your characters? Put on your evil plotting face (like this: >:} ) and make a list of everything that annoys your characters. While you shouldn't go overboard, perhaps you can add a devious little evil plot to your story. Those are always delightful. Are there any predicaments you can think of that would generate humor?
- You might have noticed that I wrote a lot of prompts involving antagonists. Antagonists, if they exist in your books, are usually the more difficult characters. Spend some time contemplating your antagonist's goals. If your antagonist is evil, how does he/she justify his/her actions? Remember, your antagonist needs to be able to sleep at night. Antagonists who deliberately do evil acts are usually more common in little children's books (the big bad enemy) or in darker stories.
---> Remember: Everybody loves something. It generally makes your story more credible if your antagonist can occasionally be seen in a good mood. Even the big bad guys like to pet puppies and kittens.
Much more can be said about this, but that's for another resource.
- Are there any characters you're leaving out? Compile a list of characters. Is anyone neglected? If so, remember that readers may not pick your protagonist as their favorite character, so if you've given a certain character a lot of characterization, it may be unwise to let him/her drop out of the story. Is anyone given too much screen time compared to his/her role? If so, try reading "Extrasuperfabulous" and see if it helps (which it may not).
- Think about your favorite books and movies. What were your favorite parts? Who were your favorite characters? Why? What was it about the writer/director/actor's skill that brought the story to life, and how can you use those techniques in your writing? Do you get any ideas from the characters or plot? Copying is always a bad idea, but drawing general ideas from something is not illegal. Wrap yourself in warm, fuzzy memories of good books and then try to make your book feel like that.
- If all else fails, edit. You're still working on your book that way.
Well, hopefully this list gave you a few ideas! If all else fails, edit your book or check out groups like #OC-Interviews
for memes to fill out so you're at least thinking about your characters. As for me, I'm off to stick Rose and Dark under a bridge.