Writing Well-Developed Characters: What Pain Can Teach Us about Our Characters

We were talking about writing from our pain the other day. That exercise can help us whether we're writing an autobiography or fiction. Examining our pain helps us to understand how our characters feel in the situations they encounter. Pain leads to empathy. Empathy helps us to create well-developed characters in fiction writing.

The hardest part of creating well-developed characters is thinking through the minds and feeling through the hearts of our characters. That's where our own experiences come into play. We can use how we have felt in similar circumstances or how family members or friends have felt to understand what our charcters feel and think and to express that beautifully through our writing.

Writing Exercise:

Creative Writing Now recently published writing prompts designed to help us think deeply about our characters. Use one of the writing prompts below to create a well-developed character. Think like the character. Feel what he feels. See what she sees. Hear and smell everything your character does. Then, write it all down.

Character contradictions

Invent a character who has two personality traits that are completely incompatible, that don't fit together at all. For example: this character is incredibly messy and is also a total perfectionist. Or: this character is a pacifist and also has a really explosive temper. Or: this character believes in strict, traditional family values but is promiscuous by nature. You decide. Then think of a situation in which these two sides of your character would be in direct conflict with each other. Write the story.


Your character thinks he/she is good at something, but he/she isn't. Something happens that makes your character realize this. What? What does your character do about it? Write the story.

Blast from the past

Years later, the character's first love shows up on his or her doorstep again. Both your character and his/her first love are surprised at how the other person has changed (How?) This encounter causes a disruption in your character's life (How? What does your character do about it?) Write the story.

Crisis of faith

Your character has a certain deep-held belief about life. This belief may be based on religion, on something he learned from his parents, or on his own experience. Decide what this belief is and where it came from. In your story, something happens to the character that seems incompatible with this belief. How does your character react? Write the story.

via Fiction Writing Prompts and Short Story Ideas

Share your writing in the comment section below.



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