Sunday, November 29, 2015

Writing Prompt: The Skill Builder: Make and Meet a Character

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

This week’s prompt focuses on an exercise designed to work on a particular skill or technique, such as a POV exercise or character builder. Today’s skill:

Character creation and introduction

Create a character and write a scene to introduce them. The catch though, is to include four details from the list below (try to do it without using the words on the list—so don’t say “she was selfish” show what being selfish looks like). Choose one detail per category—a trait, a description, some backstory, and a situation. Then get those details across during that situation.

Aim for six details in 500 words or less if you want to push yourself.

  • Selfish
  • Timid
  • Impatient
  • Generous
  • Cautious
  • Optimistic
  • Focused
  • Obsessive
  • Heavy set
  • Tall
  • Bald
  • Short hair
  • Snappy dresser
  • Emaciated
  • Freckles
  • Brown eyes
  • Bad teeth
  • Scared by a dog as a child
  • Bad breakup
  • Lost a loved one
  • Was humiliated by a sibling
  • Failed spectacularly in public
  • Has a secret power or ability
  • Committed a crime
  • Late for work
  • Planning an event
  • Making a mistake
  • Falling in love
  • Getting a ticket
  • Hearing good news
  • Losing your patience


  1. “Oh, for goodness sake!” Loretta threw the mascara on the dressing-table and grabbed at a tissue. Her make-up bag tumbled to the floor, the contents spilling out across the floor and her flat-mate snickering behind her as her left eye watered from the attack of the mascara brush.
    ”Never heard the proverb ‘Less haste, more speed’ then?” Josie grabbed her coat from the back of the door and continued, “Well, I’m off, if you don’t get a shake on you’ll be late!” She flicked her immaculately blow-dried hair and left the room. Loretta sighed; Josie was just like her sister, Loren everything just seemed to fall effortlessly into place for her too and she had no qualms about bigging herself up at Loretta’s expense either.
    Bending to scoop up the make-up items, her long, thin fingers picking at the assorted eyeshadows and lipsticks like a chicken pecking at corn, she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. Despite elbows jutting sharply beneath her short-sleeved top and legs like knitting needles poking out of her A-line skirt, she still grimaced at the bloated tummy she could see bulging from beneath her waistband. She made her way to the bathroom; one more vomiting session should soon cure that.
    Being late on your first day was bad enough, turning up without make-up and one bloodshot eye merely adding to overall bad impression.
    “Oh dear, Ms. Simmons, late night partying was it? Monsieur Lemont isn’t going to be very happy you know!” Madame Vichy continued tutting as she led Loretta to the changing rooms not pausing to let Loretta attempt an apology or explanation. “The new model’s here, she’s going to need a lot of work so better get started on her straight away.” Grabbing Loretta by the arm she ushered her into the room where hairstylists creating elaborate up-do’s and make-up artists painting faces were busy at work.

  2. "Hello, you must be—" the man in front of her glanced down at her name tag "—Lola."

    "That's right," Lola smiled. The smile was a bearing of teeth; a warning, not a greeting. The man instinctively took a step back. Lola bounced on the balls of her feet. "When do you think the food will be done? I'm positively STARVED." She laughed, and it echoed around them. The man smiled hesitantly and then disappeared into the crowd. Lola downed the rest of her champagne, unsurprised.

    Another immediately took his place. Lola resisted the urge to run a hand through her spiked hair. "Hey, Liam," Lola read, rolling her shoulders.

    "Lola. Lola Lasagne. You wouldn't happen to run an illegal horse-racing scam, would you?" Lola blinked. "Never mind."

    "How did you know?" Lola realized it had been a joke and then shook her head. "That was a Batman reference, right?" Liam's mouth opened in shock. "My brother used to watch that show."

    "He had good taste." Lola raised one eyebrow. "You have lovely eyes. I don't think I've ever seen that shade of green before."

    Lola made a note to leave Becky a scathing voicemail; this was exactly why she didn't like blind dates.

    The buzzer rang, and Liam stood up. "I guess that's it." He pulled a pen out of his pocket and dragged a paper napkin forward to write on it. "Here's my num—"

    "Don't bother, I won't read it," Lola interrupted bluntly. "Have a good night," she said blandly, and waved him away. Another contestant usurped the seat, and Lola walked away before he could get a word out. Date night was /over./