4 creative writing prompts to stress out your characters

One of my worst writing habits is the inclination to write happy and descriptive scenes, rather than action filled, stressful ones. In my head, it seems to all fall into place so neatly, though when I take the time to write, I realize how unrealistic it feels. People, and characters, experience pain in their lives. How they confront these stressful experiences is what molds them, and ultimately, what makes them interesting to read.

With some resistance, I found that writing characters through painful stories is actually easier for me, even with my unrelenting optimism.

Before you start, these creative writing prompts require a character. Start from scratch or use one you’ve been working on. If you need inspiration, choose a random character name from this list.

1. Crime Witness

Your character witnesses a crime. This can be anything from shoplifting to a full-on felony.

Write about what they observe, and more importantly, their response. Are they sympathetic or a quiet bystander? How does it impact the rest of their life?

2. Passive-Aggressive Interaction

Your character is in a passive-agressive dispute with a friend/partner/family member. Both of them are pretending their problems are non-existent, though they are throwing snide comments and subtly rude actions to the other.

Write a situation where your character is experiencing this.

3. Emotion to Emotion

Your goal is to take your character from one strong emotion to another. Write your developing character into a scene – you can pick a location here.

From this list, choose two differing emotions and see how drastically you can bring your character from one to the next. This change in emotion can be due to an external circumstance or an internal realization. Be sure to describe both emotions and why they are feeling them fully, including sensory details.

4. Traumatizing Situations

Pick a random stressful situation from this list.

Think about your character’s background as they respond, keeping in mind that you want to keep their behaviors consistent.

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