by John Bucher (@johnkbucher)
In order to take advantage of these prompts, all you need is a character. Use one you’ve been developing recently. If you don’t have one of your own, feel free to use one of these:
KATIE BOLEYN: Caucasian, mid 30s, lives in Washington, D.C. She works for a Congresswoman.
BILLY NILES: African-American, late 70s, lives in San Francisco. He’s played the trumpet at the KitKat Club for over 40 years.
ANDREA LOPEZ: Latina, early 20s, lives in Dallas. She’s gay and comes from a religious family.
STEVE SIMMONS: Asian, late 20s, lives in Atlanta. He’s a kindergarten teacher.
THE WORST DAY
Imagine the worst day in your character’s life. Write for ten minutes about the day this event occurred. If the juices are flowing, write about the day after the event.
THE BIG SECRET
Imagine your character is hiding a secret that no one knows. Perhaps they accidentally killed someone. Perhaps they are in love with their boss. Perhaps they stole money from their church’s collection plate. Who is the one person they definitely wouldn’t want to find out? Write for ten minutes about the secret and its discovery.
THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER
Imagine a mysterious stranger suddenly appears in your character’s life that seems to know things about them that no one else does. Write about the moment the stranger appears and exactly what they know.
Imagine someone from your character’s past suddenly shows up. Their appearance is upsetting to your character. Write about why your character never wanted to see this person again.
THE BIG RISK
Imagine your character decides to take the biggest risk of their life. What would that risk be? How would they go about executing it? Write for ten minutes about this.
Imagine your character must suddenly leave their life and run away. What caused this? What will they do? What are they leaving behind? What will they make an attempt to take with them?
Imagine your character witnesses something no one else was supposed to see. What will they do with this information? Did anyone see them witness the situation? Write for ten minutes, describing everything that would go through your character’s head.
Imagine your character is the son or daughter of someone famous. Do they embrace this fact or reject it? Does it help them in life or hurt them? Write a page of biographical information about your character.
Imagine your character collects something very odd – something they would rather no one knew about. Write for ten minutes about what they collect, how they got into this hobby, and the implications of others knowing about it.
Imagine your character wakes up and finds a clown hiding in the corner of their room. Write for ten minutes about what happens next. Is this a comedy or a thriller? A horror or a drama?
John Bucher is a writer, speaker, and story consultant based out of Los Angeles. He is the author of several books including The Inside Out Story and the upcoming Secrets of Short Visual Storytelling. He has written for entities ranging from HBO to International Ambassadors. He teaches at The LA Film Studies Center and has conducted story seminars on five continents. He can be reached on Twitter @johnkbucher and through his blog, welcometothesideshow.org.