One of the most powerful aspects of developing character is to know the values he or she holds deep within. Creating a character with a strong internal moral compass adds depth to your character and power to your story. (To see more on core character values check out Core Character Values: Finding the Moral Compass.) Below are writing prompts to help you find the heart and soul—the moral compass—of your character, followed by some prompts meant for you to ask yourself. They are great prompts for journal writing but will help your fiction as well. See what matters to you and perhaps you will get some ideas for what matters to your character.
Developing Character Core Values: Yearnings, Dreams, Sense of Well Being, Sense of Self
- As the story begins, what aspects of life does this character love or hate?
- What is important to this character?
- What does he work to gain, keep or protect (money, fame, family, love, country, revenge, etc.)?
- How does he see himself in the world (in control or a speck tossed about by fate)?
- How does he want others to see him?
- What does he hide from others?
- What does he let others see?
Developing Character Core Values: Dream, what does she want?
- Why does she want this?
- What core value does this represent?
- What in her personality is in conflict with the ability to realize this?
- What happens (in the story) to challenge this?
- What does she lose (in the story) to realize this dream?
Developing Character Core Values: Beliefs, Ethics, Values
(character needs: psychological and moral)
- What are her religious beliefs?
- How important are these beliefs to this person?
- Was she raised this way? Or did she develop her beliefs on her own?
- What prompted her beliefs?
- Does she believe in an afterlife?
- Describe this character’s ethical code?
- Any deep-seated beliefs or values?
- What are his political beliefs? Are they a factor in his everyday life?
- Does he have a sense of bravery?
- Does he act from this?
- Does he have a sense of humor?
- How does he show it?
- Who does he really love best in the whole world?
- Details on how s/he feels about them:
- How does he show it?
- What would he or she be willing to die for?
Developing Character Core Values: Look Inside Yourself…
- Ten things, ideas, places, people, or actions you feel deeply about.
- Five personal experiences that aroused strong emotions in you.
- Five ideas or concepts you deeply believe.
- Five activities you enjoy. Why? Five activities you detest. Why?
- Five places you like to go.
- Five causes you believe in.
- Write a letter to further one of these causes.
- Five dreams you have had in your life.
- What did each mean to you?
- Did you achieve your dream?
- Why was it important?
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.