The characters you write are very specific with their habits, idiosyncrasies, hopes, dreams, fears, desires, etc. As a writer, once you get to know your characters you know them inside and out. You know their favorite way to spend a rainy afternoon, their most beloved hobbies, the in’s and out’s of their various relationships, and even how they like to take their coffee. Are they the type to take their coffee black or to walk out of their local coffee shop with the most overly-sweet sugary beverage on the menu?
You also know your characters’ pet peeves, the hobbies that they hate, the people that would annoy them the most, and their least favorite activities. Getting even more specific, you know how the things that they like and dislike blend together. How there are certain hobbies or people that your character thinks they dislike but, should they give them a fair chance, they may actually enjoy themselves. The opposite can be true as well, having a character who loves a certain hobby but then, due to overindulgence or other factors, it can become something they despise.
This is where our writing prompt of the day comes in: opposite day. This exercise involves putting your character in situations where they would never normally find themselves in of their own choice. So if your character hates carnivals, write a scene where they’re forced to go to a local carnival. It doesn’t even have to be something that they hate either, it can simply be something they’d never normally do. If you’ve never thought your character would ever be inclined to try pottery, for example, write a scene where they’re taking a pottery class.
Brainstorming the scene or scenes you write for the exercise will allow you to chart out the different habits and nuances of your character. In addition, writing the scene itself will allow you to not only practice showing (rather than telling) the reader about the specifics of character-building, but may also allow you to learn new things about your characters.
Putting your character in scenes they’d never normally find themselves in will allow you to gain new insights about them. As any writer will know, you can plot and outline all you want but often the characters will run away with the plot themselves. So, oftentimes, we won’t truly know how a certain character will react in a situation until they’re actually in it.
Writing Prompt: Pick a specific character from your manuscript (or a character you’re working on) and put them in a scene or scenes in which they’d never normally find themselves. This could mean a setting or circumstance that they would dislike or one that is simply very unlike them normally. How do they react to being in this situation? Why do they react this way? Is their reaction different or the same as what they’d expect of themselves? If it is different, why is that?