Writing Prompt: Get Into Character

Posted February 1, 2011 by addicted2edward 17 Comments

Welcome to Novel Novice’s Writing Prompts!  Reading and writing go hand-in-hand: reading makes you a better writer, and writing makes you a better reader.  Whether you’re aspiring to be a novelist, just having fun, or interested in trying your hand at writing, we welcome you to join in.

Here’s how it will work:

  • Prompts will be posted on the 1st of the month, every other month, Feb-Oct.
  • Stories will be due 6 weeks later, on the 14th of the following month.
  • Stories will be posted on the website for everyone to read, so that we can learn from each other.
  • Each prompt will focus on a writing technique to help you sharpen your skills.
  • Prompts are open-ended so that they may be used for fan fiction for any book/series.

There is no judging, voting, or winners. The goals of these writing prompts are:

  1. To have fun
  2. To improve your writing skills
  3. To share your writing with others

On to this month’s prompt….

The Focus:

Ahhh…the age-old writing debate — what’s more important: characters or plot? While a well-written book will have both developed characters and a compelling plot, chances are if you’re writing fan fiction, it’s because you felt some kind of connection with the characters.  You wanted to put them in new situations than what was found in the original books. Or maybe you wanted to explore a character’s thoughts and feelings during a particular scene.

This challenge is all about keeping in your point-of-view character’s mind.

  1. Voice
  2. Every character has a distinct “voice”.  How he phrases his sentences, his vocabulary, and his upbringing are all things that help make up his unique way of speaking.  Consider reading a Harry Potter story from Hagrid’s point of view.  You can imagine how different that would sound compared to Harry.

    Another example can be found in Breaking Dawn.  A third of the book is written from Jacob Black’s point of view, and his voice is completely different than Bella’s.  You can read just about any paragraph in that section and know it’s not Bella doing the speaking just by the words and emotion.

  3. World View
  4. Every character has their own set of beliefs and values.  When you write from the point of view of a character, your story is affected by those beliefs — whether they are true or false, right or wrong. For instance, in the Harry Potter series, because Harry believes Snape to be on Voldemort’s side, we only see evidence that supports that case.  Even when someone points out to Harry that Snape was actually helping him, he continues to view Snape as the bad guy.  This affects the reader’s view of Snape as well.

    In the Twilight series, Bella thinks of the Cullens as compassionate, selfless, moral people worthy of Heaven. Edward sees himself as a souless, selfish monster. Jake calls them “leeches”, “bloodsuckers”, etc.  Had Twilight been written completely by Jake, the Cullens would be the “bad guys” corrupting Bella and the wolves the “good guys” saving her.

  5. What’s the Story?
  6. The type of story you are writing depends on your viewpoint character:

    Let’s suppose, for instance, that you are writing a novel about the abduction of a child. Major characters are the father, the mother, the child, the abductor, a suspicious-but-innocent neighbor, and the lead detective on the case. The child will be recovered, but the family will never be the same again.  There are at least six potential novels here, all vastly different.

    If the mother or father (or both) is your viewpoint, you will have a novel of anguish. … If the child is the POV character, you have a novel of bewilderment, fear, maybe eventual escape. You will, of course, lose all scenes of the investigation and of parental interaction… If the neighbor is the POV [point-of-view] character, you will have a novel of injustice. … If the abductor is the POV charcter, you probably have a novel of either evil or madness. … If the police officer or FBI agent is the POV character, you have a mystery novel.

    — Characters, Emotion, and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress, pg 161-162

The Challenge:

Choose a character from a book/series that is NOT a viewpoint character in the original books(s).  Write a short story (also called a “one-shot” in the fan fiction community) from the point-of-view of that character taking place some time after the book/series.  Focus on really getting into your viewpoint character’s head, capturing his voice, and showing the reader his view of the world.

Alternatively, if you prefer not to write fan fiction, write your own original story.  Let us meet your character and learn who he is through your story by his actions, thoughts, and view of the world.

Write a complete story with the following elements: your character wants something but there is an obstacle in his way (conflict). He needs to fight to get what he wants (climax). He either gets it or he doesn’t, and he may or may not learn something about himself as a result (resolution).  “Fight” doesn’t have to mean a physical fight. The conflict could, for example, be something as simple as a teenager wanting to borrow the car and the parents refusing.  The fight in that case might be an argument, defiant behavior, etc.

 

The Specifics:

  • If writing fan fiction, choose one character from any book/series as your viewpoint character.
  • Write your story in first person or limited third person.  Limited third person is writing in third person (“he”/”she”) but only from within one character’s perspective, rather than multiple characters’ perspectives.
  • Your story must be at least 1000 words long.
  • Use proper punctuation, spelling, and grammar (within the confines of your character, of course. Again, consider Hagrid as a viewpoint character. *shudder*)
  • Consider having your story edited by a beta. See this article for more about beta readers.
  • Stories are due by 11:59PM PST on March 14.

Submitting Your Story

There are a few options for submitting your story:

  • Post it on a website such as fanfiction.net, LiveJournal, your blog, etc. Be sure whatever site you choose does not require users to login in order to read your story.
  • Email the link to your story to christie.novelnovice@gmail.com.
  • If you don’t want to post your story on a website, you can email it to christie.novelnovice@gmail.com. Please use DOC or PDF format only. If you wish to remain anonymous, please let me know when you send it (and don’t include your name in the file).

What do you think about our writing prompts feature?  Are you planning to participate? We’re open to suggestions for improving as we go, too.

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17 responses to “Writing Prompt: Get Into Character

    • sgundell

      Christie always did such an amazing job running our fan fic contests at NNT, so we wanted to brainstorm a way to translate that over to NN … I think what she’s come up with is nothing short of BRILLIANT! 🙂

  1. Susan

    OHHH, I love this!!! And I LOVE to write! 😀 I will definitely be entering this! (if I can find the time, that is; college keeps me pretty busy)
    Thank you so much, Novel Novice!

  2. Lauren

    Really great idea!!!! Think I’ll send something in 😀 although I might join for the next one if I get too much homework this month 😀

  3. TwilightFreak#1

    I don’t know if I’ll do this or not, but it’s a great idea. I loved NNT’s challenges SO MUCH because they introduced me to the awesome world of fanfiction and fanfiction.net, which I had known nothing about previously. Now I love fanfiction, often think of what characters from books/movies would work well, and have an account under the username TwilightFreakNumberOne on fanfiction.net. These prompts are so open-ended, and challenging, and fun, even though they aren’t just Twilight I love them! Great job, Novel Novice. 🙂 Thanks.

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