Point of view is one of the most powerful tools in your creative writing toolbox. Time to use this power in writing prompts! Going beyond the basics of first, second or third POV will not only give you ideas, but will add depth to your writing. Here are some prompt ideas for your work-in-progress to help you strengthen your story AND help you expand your own point of view writing techniques at the same time.
Let’s put your muse to work with point of view.
1. Take a scene you are having trouble writing or a scene you feel “needs something” and re-write it in the lead character’s FIRST person point of view, regardless of what point of view you are writing your book in. This will help you do two things—get closer into the lead’s mind and actually connect with him, and then help you make that same deep connection when writing in third.
2. If you are already writing in first person, go to another character in the scene and write it from her first-person point of view. You will be amazed at what you uncover. By really wearing the skin of another character you will easily see her goals, feel the conflict she feels, and that will translate into the actions and expressions (and perhaps even change what she says) when you go back into the lead character’s first person POV.
Even if you are writing in third person, go ahead and write each character in the scene from first-person point of view. You will discover so much, you’ll be glad you did.
3. Write about your lead character from every other character’s point of view in the story. Let the characters who interact with your lead tell you what they think about her, how each relates to her, what each thinks your lead’s flaws and weaknesses are. Next, let each one tell you the opposite—what he or she admires about the lead character. This will help bridge connections—both positive and negative—between characters.
4. Take a scene and write it in close third point of view. In other words, pull the scene in with internal thoughts, attitudes, and reactions. Now write it in distant third, in other words, write in just the action line. As if you are a camera watching the scene. Now, combine the best of both.
5. List ten things your protagonist fears. Ten things he loves. Then things he hates. Ten things he’d never do. Ten things he dreams of doing. Ten things he’d do but he’s afraid to try. Now write a scene where he tries it.
6. Dig deep. What is your character’s biggest fear? Is she afraid of hurting someone—accidentally or otherwise? Being bored? Disappearing? Not mattering to anyone? Becoming useless? Being alone? Not being taken seriously? Never finding happiness? Betrayal by a friend or family member? Someone close to her dying? Death of self? Not belonging? Running out of money? Getting trapped by circumstances or a person? Failing?
7. Ask your character for his earliest childhood memory. Hear him speak to you and write his answer in first person. Did he experience a childhood trauma? Was his entire childhood filled with trauma? What happened in childhood that is too painful to admit? What belief did he carry into adulthood from his childhood? What sort of childhood did he have? Who were his friends? Have him tell you about them and write everything down.
8. Write out a bucket list for your character. What does she want to accomplish or try before she dies? Her goals in life—both long and short-term—will tell you much about her.
9. What about secrets? Does your character have any? Force her to be honest and answer you (in first person point of view).
10. Ask your character where he feels fear? What part of his body? What does hope feel like to him? Have him answer in specific terms, not in abstractions. What happens in his body when he gets angry? Frustrated? Happy? Sorry?
Asking your character questions and getting honest answers, plus putting on the skin of your lead and other characters in your story will offer a wealth of ideas, and the best part, bring more depth and layers to your writing.
Award-winning novelist Kathy Steffen teaches fiction writing and speaks at writing programs across the country. Additionally, Kathy is also published in short fiction and pens a monthly writing column, Between the Lines. Her books, FIRST THERE IS A RIVER, JASPER MOUNTAIN and THEATER OF ILLUSION are available online and at bookstores everywhere.