What kind of person is your main character?
Maybe you’ve started to hear their voice in your head, but they just haven’t been very talkative.
What can you do to make your character reveal their full self, quirks and all?
The best way to get to know the people you’ve created is to use character development writing prompts.
We’ve created a list of 47 to put each of your key characters to the test.
Choose your own adventures for them. And see what your characters reveal about themselves.
Actions speak louder than words. But you’ll need both.
Key Benefits of Character Development Exercises
The more you know about these people in your story, the more real they become to you.
Then comes the challenge of helping your reader see them through dialogue and essential details. The more character development prompts you use, though, the more experience you’ll have doing exactly that.
47 Character Development Prompts
Try any of the character scenarios below to see what each of your key characters is made of. Put them in situations that reveal their character and what they believe about themselves — as well as what they think of other characters in your story.
We’ve divided these into groups to make it easier for you to focus on the areas that are the foggiest right now. Dive in and choose a prompt for today’s freewriting exercise.
Identity or Personality Prompts
1. If your character has a superpower, what is it and how did they discover it? Is it something they’re proud of or would they like to exchange it for someone else’s?
2. What is your character’s biggest flaw? Write about how they came to terms with it (if they have) or how they react when someone calls them out for it.
3. Write a scene exposing your character’s fatal flaw and include another character from your story. Write from either character’s point of view.
4. Write a scene revealing a mental health challenge for your character. Another character recognizes that challenge and offers help.
5. Your character is trying to decide what to eat on a Friday night alone at their place. Write a voice journal entry about their thought process, what they eat, and why.
6. Have three of your characters play “Truth or Dare.” What do they learn about each other? And what character is more likely to choose “Dare” over “Truth”?
7. If your character has decided romantic or sexual love is not for them, write about what led them to identify as asexual or aromantic. How have others reacted?
8. Has your character discovered an attraction they’ve been taught they shouldn’t have? Write about how has that affected their beliefs and sense of identity?
9. Does your character identify with the gender assigned to them at birth? If not, write about how they came to identify as a trans person and who supported them.
10. Write a scene where your character reveals their sexual orientation or gender identity to someone who doesn’t respond well to the news.
11. Have your character take the 16Personalities test to identify their Myers-Briggs type. Write a voice journal entry about their reaction to the results.
12. Get your character alone with a parental figure that shaped their response to authority. Is your character generally obedient or more likely to question or rebel?
13. Get your character alone with someone they’re attracted to, whether they’ve acknowledged that attraction or not. Let them find out the attraction isn’t mutual.
14. Get your character alone with someone who hurt them and who now needs their help. Write a scene or dialogue exchange hinting at the hurt caused by the other.
15. Write a scene where your character cooks a meal for someone else in your story. Show how it turns out and what they talk about while they eat (or drink).
16. Write a scene where one of your character’s siblings comes to visit them. What do they talk about? What have they been through together?
17. Get your character talking about their first love, who it was and whether the attraction was mutual. Was it an epic love or just a crush? How did it end?
18. Does your character have a mentor, coach, or guide? Write a scene where they clash with this mentor or take issue with advice or directions they’ve been given.
19. Has your character ever lost a friend? Write a scene leading up to that loss and then show how your character reacts.
20. Write a scene that shows what kind of friend your character is when someone they care about is going through a bad break-up.
21. How does your character get along with kids? Write a scene where someone talks to your character about whether they want kids of their own and why or why not.
22. Write a scene describing an encounter between your character and someone who has an unrequited crush on them — and who writes poetry.
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23. Write a scene where someone teases your character and then ridicules them for acting “triggered.” What goes through your character’s head and what do they say?
24. Write a scene showing how your character would respond to a bully — e.g., a belligerent customer harassing an employee or a parent verbally abusing a child.
25. Write a scene showing how your character would react upon learning that the attraction between them and another character is mutual.
26. Write a scene showing how your character would respond to the death or serious injury of someone they cared about. What would they reveal about themselves?
27. Write about the moment your character learns what it will cost to get the thing they want most. How do they react? What do they say and do?
28. How would your character react to someone telling them, “You’re not like other women/men”? Write a scene or dialogue exchange showing their reaction.
29. Think of a strong reaction you’ve had that surprised or confused others. Write a scene where one of your characters has a similar reaction to something.
30. Write a scene where your character reacts to a religious symbol from their past. What does religion mean to them, now, and what do they believe about God?
31. How would your character react if they met their clone — who happens to be both successful and (apparently) evil? Write a scene describing the encounter.
Ethics and Morality Prompts
32. Does your character meet someone who helps them make a better decision about something? Write a scene or dialogue for a pivotal moment involving both.
33. Does your character meet someone who manipulates them into doing something harmful? What do they do, and how does it affect them and other characters?
34. What choice would your character make if presented with the trolley problem? Write a voice journal entry explaining their decision.
35. Does your character have a redemption arc? Write a scene where you reveal your character’s turning point or an experience that changes them for the better.
36. What could push your character over the edge? Write a scene where this happens? What does your character do or say as a result? What do they lose?
37. Write a scene where your character meets a panhandler asking for money. Do they give the man anything? Use details and dialogue to reveal why or why not.
38. Your character’s boss has offered them a significant promotion if they can get another employee to quit. Write about your character’s thought process.
39. Your character has an unpleasant encounter with their rich boss, who leaves their loaded wallet behind. Write a scene showing what your character does and why.
40. Write about a traumatic experience in this character’s life and how it continues to affect them. Whom did it involve, and how have those relationships changed?
41. Is your character’s world heteronormative? Write about how your character and others respond to non-hetero romantic relationships.
42. How has your character dealt with grief in the past? Write a scene where someone confronts them on this or encourages them to talk about it.
43. Your character isn’t convinced they’re a good person. Write a scene or conversation that explains why. Do they remember ever thinking they were good?
44. Does your character have a secret about their past? Write a scene where this secret comes out. How do they and the other characters react?
45. Have your character’s beliefs changed significantly since adolescence? Write a voice journal entry about those beliefs and why they changed.
46. As a child, your character wandered away from their parents, who didn’t notice their absence until a stranger brought them back. Write about what happened.
47. Write about a mistake your character made that he still hasn’t forgiven himself for. Use a voice journal entry to explain why.
How will you use these character development prompts?
Now that you have 47 character development writing prompts, which one are you most eager to start with? Which one has already started the movie projector in your head?
Once you know each character to their core, you can do as Terry Pratchett suggests: “Wind them up, put them down, and simply write down what they do, say, and think.”
You’ll be doing that for these prompts. But they’ll also help you do it better.
Meanwhile, you’ll also get better at creating characters your readers will fall in love with and write fanfiction for.
Get your ship names ready, just in case.