Weekly Writing Challenge: Characters that Haunt You
We blog for a million different reasons, but in the end, we’re all storytellers. Creative Writing Challenges are here to help you push your writing boundaries and explore new ideas, subjects, and writing styles.
To participate, tag your post with DPchallenge and include a link to this post, to generate a pingback and help others find the challenges. Please make sure your post has been specifically written in response to this challenge — we might just feature your entry on Freshly Pressed this Friday.
Coady, like you and me — and everyone else who writes — has characters emblazoned in her imagination that follow her around and eventually work their way out of her head:
When you possess a creative brain, says Coady, everyday experiences are used as ingredients for the work you hope one day to make. And, if you’re lucky, the chemistry of all that accumulated weirdness makes art. The weirdness mainly rears its head on social occasions. A party, say, where people are chatting about their jobs, their busy family lives, and it strikes you that the only thing you have (or want) to talk about are the imaginary beings who’ve been living in your head the past few months. Or past year. Or past couple of years.
Who’s been following you around?
Pick one of the characters that inhabit your brain. Today is that character’s birthday! They’re going to emerge from your head to appear in a new scene on your page or screen.
Document at least five important characteristics of your character — the idea is to capture as much detail about them as possible to get to know who they are. Your character is entirely up to you — it could be a human, or an animal, or an inanimate object. The idea is to allow the character to escape the confines of your imagination and become alive on the page. Here are some characteristics to consider — though this list is just a starting point. Experiment! Free yourself from constraints.
- Is your character a human, animal, inanimate object, or other type of being?
- How old is your character?
- Create a physical description including height, weight, race, hair color, and eye color. Does your character have any identifying marks? Birthmarks? Scars? Tattoos? Piercings?
- What’s your character’s gender?
- Does your character have a job? A special hobby? A particular passion?
- What is your character’s greatest fear?
- What does your character long for most in life? What do they hope for? Dream about?
- What motivates your character? Do they act out of fear? Self preservation? Love? Ambivalence?
Plop your character into a scene
Now that you’ve fleshed out your character in greater detail, write a scene that involves your character. You can plop your character into one of the locations below, or you can invent your own place and time. The scene can be any length you choose, though for the purposes of this challenge, compose at least one paragraph that features your character. What are they doing? Why are they there? What are they thinking about and why?
- Downtown New York City. Bustle. Hustle. Taxi horns blaring.
- The Burning Man festival.
- In the departure lounge at Richardson International Airport in Winnipeg, Canada.
- At an old gas station on the edge of your city or town.
- At a public library.
- At the seaside.
- Planet Neptune.
Remember — you’re the boss. Feel free to choose from the list of characteristics. Mix and match, or invent your own list — only you know which characteristics and location are most important about the character that inhabits your brain. So looking forward to reading what you write. Have fun!