Humans are highly resistant to change — for a character to believably undergo a personal journey that substantially alters them, something HUGE and specific must happen to them. This event doesn't have to happen in your story, but once you can identify your character’s limits, you can determine what is required to create a potential change in their fundamental nature.
For this exercise, determine what this catalyst for change might be by considering situations or attributes that feel counterintuitive. For instance, if your character is a Good Samaritan, it is unlikely they would commit a crime. What would have to be at stake for this unlikely situation to happen — and for a core part of your character to change?
Sometimes a bad case of writer’s block boils down to a broken connection between you and your protagonist, and the solution can be a change of scenery. Not for you — for your character! Writing prompts are a good way to get the creative juices flowing and can help you clear out the block so your character can continue down your story’s path. For a weekly supply of fresh writing prompts, head here: reedsy.com/writing
Try your hand at conveying your character through action by first writing a list of physical traits that apply to your character. Next, with that list at hand, write a scene where something is happening — whether it’s a conversation, laundry-folding, cooking, etc. Weave references to your character’s physicality into the action.
Establishing how your character is perceived by others is a great way to give them greater context. It can provide the author with expectations to subvert for the reader and add an interesting mystique to the character. To give the Gatsby Method a go, write a scene in which your character is only present through the candid descriptions of him/her by others.
Create a timeline of the significant moments of your character’s life. Like many authors, you can use post-it notes or a big whiteboard to visualize your character’s life. You can easily move or add events until you feel your character has a well-developed history. After you’ve finished the timeline, distill it into the top 5-10 moments that have shaped your character. For instance, if loss is a thematically important part of your book, perhaps a significant part of your character’s past is when they lost a grandparent as a child.
Develop your characters by placing them in a situation where they are faced with a challenge. For conflict inspiration, look no further than these classic moral dilemmas (and, of course, analyze them from the perspective of your character). For an example of a moral dilemma, search "The Trolly Problem."
In order to dive deeper into your character’s emotional depths, ask a round of questions — both probing and seemingly innocuous alike. (Hey, you never know when your character’s favorite choice of ice cream topping might come in handy!) While we encourage you to build and refine your own set of questions, these questionnaires will provide solid inspiration for now: Arthur Aron’s 36 Questions That Lead to Love, and The Proust Questionnaire.