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2021: Celebrating The Writers' Greenhouse
10 YEAR anniversary!

Friday, 13 November 2020

Weekly writing prompt: Larger than life

Larger than Life

In the run-up to the online Imaginary Worlds course in February, I'm posting a writing prompt each weekend, to carry you through the winter – plenty of different stuff for you to play around with as a chance to experiment, start inventing, get your pen moving, and have fun!

This week's prompt is a character creation exercise: LARGER THAN LIFE. I suggest you invent characters for this, rather than use an existing character from an ongoing story, because you'll have more freedom to exaggerate them. But if you have a character that really needs some development, and you think this would work, go for it.

Having vivid strongly developed characters is important in any genre of writing. I find it especially valuable in the imaginary-worlds genres, as we're often so absorbed in the world-building that we leave the main character as a bit of an Everyperson and other characters as sets of tropes. There are heaps of ways to develop characters so they're not banal or walking tropes; this is an especially fun one.

Your mission is to take one character trait for them, and then exaggerate it wildly, through anecdotes of the things they've done. To take a famous example - imagine your character is 'miserly'. So, a bunch of anecdotes about his miserliness:

  • He only burns a single piece of coal, even in the depth of winter!
  • He pays his workers so little that their families can't afford to eat!
  • He makes his staff work even on Christmas day!
  • He lives in a miserable old room that belonged to his dead business partner, even though he can afford a lavish place of his own!
  • He was once in love, but he was so obsessed with money that his fiancee couldn't bear it any more, and gave him an ultimatum - and he chose staying obsessed with money!
  • He's so awful that even his dead business partner comes back to haunt him to try and change his ways!

And so on... (And why yes, A Christmas Carol does count as sff – visitations from ghosts is definitely under the broad umbrella of fantasy.)

Go all out with the anecdotes, make them as wildly exaggerated and extreme as you can. It might help to imagine a bunch of gossipy people in a pub, all chiming in with their stories of "Well I heard that..."

To get your character trait, go to this random character trait generator site and pick one of the three that's generated. You might decide in advance if you want to pick a positve or negative trait; up to you. Either can be fun. Don't worry about knowing anything else about the character yet – you'll discover that as you record all those gasp-inducing anecdotes about them. Have fun with it!

If you'd like to find out more about the Imaginary Worlds course this February, you can read about it and book here. I'll be posting writing prompts each week, so if you want them delivered to your inbox, you can subscribe to the blog here:

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