Do you ever get stuck when trying to develop a story idea? If so, character prompts may be just what you need! These creative writing prompts will help you come up with interesting characters and plotlines for your next story. Remember that these are just suggestions – feel free to mix and match them or create your prompts. Use these prompts to jumpstart your creativity and get the ideas flowing! This post starts with a series of general character prompts and then has a series of genre-specific character ideas – so if writing a particular genre, skip straight to the relevant section.
Starter Character Prompts
To kick off, here are some character prompts to inspire your character development. For fun, and originality, try mixing up some of these prompts so that your unique character profiles are a combination of two or more.
- A skeptic is always the last to believe but the first to offer help.
- A woman who can’t help but love bad boys, no matter how many times they break her heart.
- A tax accountant who lives for April because it’s the only time of year when he feels truly alive.
- A child prodigy who skipped several grades but has never been able to find true friends.
- A dog walker knows all the neighborhood gossip because she spends her days eavesdropping on people’s conversations.
- A stay-at-home dad is secretly relieved when his wife returns to work after her maternity leave is up.
- A young woman who has to care for her ailing father and doesn’t know how much longer she can do it.
- An artist who uses his art to deal with his depression.
- A woman who was born into a wealthy family but has always felt like an outsider.
- A man who is haunted by his time as a soldier in Vietnam.
- A robot who becomes sentient and starts to question why humans are so cruel to each other.
- A well-educated woman is forced to drop out of college to support her family.
- A small-town boy who dreams of moving to the city.
- A woman in her late twenties who is struggling to find herself.
Character Writing Prompts by Role and Archetype
Sometimes it helps to think about your characters in terms of their role, or archetype, as a way to narrow down your options. For example, if you need a love interest for your protagonist, you might want to consider an archetype such as the “bad boy” or the “damsel in distress.”
For example, the loner who’s never been good at socializing but suddenly finds himself being drawn to someone. Or the joker who everyone loves but is hiding a broken heart.
Here are some more examples to get you started:
Protagonist: A high school student who has just been diagnosed with cancer and is trying to come to terms with her prognosis.
Antagonist: A vampire who is struggling with his addiction to human blood.
Love Interest: A soldier who has returned home from war and is dealing with PTSD.
Best Friend: A woman trying to break into the competitive fashion modeling world.
Mentor: A middle-aged man facing retirement and unsure of what he will do with the rest of his life.
Sidekick: A teenage boy coping with his parent’s recent death in a car accident.
Rival: A chef who is trying to save her failing restaurant.
Rebel: A man struggling to come to terms with his homosexuality.
Outcast: A woman diagnosed with a terminal illness is trying to make the most of her remaining time.
Villain: An assassin who has been hired to kill the president of a small country.
Hero: A single mother fighting for custody of her daughter against her ex-husband.
Princess: A woman who has been forced into an arranged marriage by her father.
Witch: A woman trying to find a cure for the curse placed on her by an evil queen.
Orphan: A girl abandoned by her parents and raised by wolves in the forest outside of town.
Wizard: An old man trying to find a successor before he dies so that he can pass down his knowledge and powers.
Fantasy Character Prompts
- A creature that has been imprisoned for centuries and is desperate to be free.
- A woman whose tail has transformed into legs must now learn how to walk on land.
- A man who a rival king has hired to steal a magic scepter from the royal palace.
- A gentle giant is misunderstood by everyone in town and constantly ridiculed.
- An elf has been sent on a quest by the king to find a magical flower that can cure any ailment.
- A princess whose kingdom is under attack by an evil sorcerer.
- A young girl dreams of becoming a dragon slayer like her hero, Sir Lancelot.
- A wizard whose apprentice has run away, and he must now go on a journey to find him.
- A warrior who is haunted by visions of their dead comrades during battle.
- A skilled thief who only targets those who have stolen themselves.
- A dragon who has taken on the form of a human and is pretending to be a king.
- A young woman discovers she can control the elements.
- An orphaned street urchin who must save the kingdom from an evil sorcerer.
- A cursed prince who turns into a beast every full moon.
- A skilled archer who is revealed to be a part elf.
- A daring rebel leader fighting against an unjust monarchy.
- A faithful knight is forced to choose between their duty and their heart.
- An assassin whose next target is revealed to be their long-lost sibling..
- A bard whose songs have the power to heal the wounded and sick.
- A ranger tracking a group of bandits through dangerous territory.
- A wizard studying at a prestigious academy.
- A goblin trying to make it in the human world.
- A paladin is sworn to protect a small village from monsters.
- A halfling con artist making their way through the world.
- A necromancer raising an army of undead to take over the kingdom.
- A child taken captive by orcs and raised as one of their own.
Mystery Character Prompts
- Write a character whose profession is a mystery to everyone, including themselves.
- Write a character who is haunted by a mysterious past.
- Write a character who always carries a memento from a loved one they’ve lost.
- Write a character with an intense fear of the dark.
- Write a character who is looking for their long-lost twin brother or sister.
- Write a character who can’t remember anything before the age of 10.
- Write a character whose parents disappeared when they were very young.
- Write a character who was born on Friday the 13th.
- Write a character who has never had (and doesn’t want) a best friend.
- Write a character who refuses to speak and only communicates through written notes.
- Write an amnesia character trying to piece together their previous life through dreams and visions.
- Write a rogue CIA agent on the run from their former employers.
- Write an international jewel thief trying to retire but getting pulled back for one last score.
- Write an assassin who falls in love with one of their targets and can’t bring themself to kill them.
- Write about someone with multiple personality disorder – each persona knowing nothing about the others.
- Write about an individual suffering from prosopagnosia – facial blindness/inability to recall faces even of those known well.
- The victim’s spouse seems genuinely distraught but may be hiding something.
- The victim’s jealous business partner stands to inherit everything they built together.
- The nosy neighbor who saw something suspicious the night of the murder won’t say what it is until they’re paid off.
- The prison inmate with information about the murder that they will only share in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
- The paranoid conspiracy theorist is convinced that the government was behind the murder.
Thriller Character Prompts
- A power-hungry politician who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.
- An idealistic young woman who gets caught up in the politician’s web of lies and manipulation.
- An investigative journalist who is determined to uncover the truth about the politician.
- A former jewel thief who is being blackmailed into stealing one last diamond.
- A professional assassin has been hired to kill the protagonist.
- The daughter of a wealthy politician is being held hostage by the antagonist.
- A street-wise teenager who is caught up in the world of gangs and drugs.
- A retired police detective helps the protagonist solve the case.
- A quirky neighbor who always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
- A ruthless criminal mastermind who will stop at nothing to achieve his goals.
- A ruthless killer who does the bidding of the villain.
- A single mother who becomes caught up in the conflict between the protagonist and antagonist.
- A hard-nosed police detective who is investigating a string of murders.
- An ambitious reporter is trying to get the scoop on the story of a lifetime.
- A deranged individual who kidnaps children for ransom.
- A psychopathic killer who enjoys torturing and killing his victims.
Romance Character Prompts
- A librarian who can’t seem to find love.
- A pilot who’s afraid of flying.
- A CEO who’s struggling to connect with people.
- A baker who’s trying to forget her past.
- A barista who’s secretly an undercover agent.
- A nurse who is passionate about her job.
- A teacher who is burnt out and doesn’t know what she wants anymore.
- A stay-at-home mom who feels like she’s missing out on her life.
- A woman who’s trying to move on from a bad breakup.
- A woman who’s afraid of commitment.
- A man who’s been hurt before and doesn’t believe in love anymore.
- A man who’s afraid of intimacy.
- A couple who are total opposites and can’t seem to make things work.
- A couple who have been married for years are trying to spice things up.
- Friends who realize they have feelings for each other.
- Best friends who decide to start a relationship on a whim.
- Two people meet online and fall in love without meeting in person.
- Two people are set up on a blind date, and it’s love at first sight.
- Two people who have been childhood friends suddenly realize they have feelings for each other.
- Two co-workers who can’t stand each other but can’t deny the attraction they feel.
- Strangers who meet on a plane end up sitting next to each other by the time they land.
Science Fiction Character Prompts
- A woman who is chosen to be the first colonist on Mars.
- A man who discovers he is an AI created by the government.
- A woman who can travel through time but only forwards, never backward.
- A man can turn invisible whenever he wants, but the downside is that he can’t turn it off again once he’s started.
- A story about an alien who crashlands on Earth and has to find a way back home.
- A story about two people who are the only survivors of a nuclear holocaust.
- Someone who can read people’s thoughts but only when they’re thinking about him/her specifically.
- Someone can choose when and how they die but not when they’re reborn into another life.
- Aliens have invaded Earth, and the protagonist has to find a way to warn the other humans before it’s too late.
- The protagonist discovers they are the reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh.
- Someone develops the ability to fly, but every time they use their power, it takes them one day closer to death.
- A girl with anti-gravity powers gets kidnapped by a group of people who want to use her for nefarious purposes.
- An engineer is the only one who can save the day when a critical component on the space station fails.
- A young woman is chosen to be the first human to make contact with an alien race.
- An ex-military man is hired as a bodyguard for a wealthy businessman but discovers that his client is a criminal mastermind.
- An alien race is invading the sheriff of a small town on a planet.
- A pilot who crash-lands on a hostile planet must find a way back home.
- A detective in a future city where crime is rampant and technology allows people to commit perfect murders.
- A soldier is sent on a mission to a planet that enemy forces have taken over.
- A bounty hunter is tracking a fugitive across the galaxy.
- A doctor is trying to find a cure for a deadly disease sweeping through the population of a space colony.
- A scientist who has developed a way to travel through time must prevent a disaster from occurring in the future.
- A group of survivors is stranded on an uninhabited planet after their ship is damaged in an attack by pirates.
- A group of people is trapped in a spaceship orbiting around a black hole and slowly being pulled in.
- The captain of a ship that aliens attack must find a way to warn Earth before it’s too late.
25 Character Questions To Help You Develop Deeper Characters
There are a few simple questions you can ask yourself about your characters that will help you develop them more fully. Here are 25 questions to get you started.
- What motivates your character?
- What does your character want?
- What does your character fear?
- What is your character’s greatest strength?
- What is your character’s greatest weakness? What is your character’s biggest flaw?
- Does your character have any secrets? If so, what are they?
- How does your character view the world?
- How does your character view other people?
- What are your character’s core beliefs?
- How did your character develop those beliefs?
- What events in your character’s life have shaped who they are today?
- How does your character react under pressure?
- What makes your character happy? Sad? Angry?
- What are some of your character’s favorite things?
- Does your character have skills or talents that set them apart from others?
- How does your character dress? How do they carry themselves?
- What kind of impression does your character make on others when they first meet them?
- Do people tend to like or dislike your character upon first meeting them? Why do you think that is?
- Does your character have any close friends or family members? Who are they, and what is their relationship to your character like?
- Is there anyone in your character’s life with whom they don’t get along? Why is that the case?
- What would people say about your character if asked to describe them to someone else?
- How does your character treat strangers as opposed to friends and family?
- When was the last time your character experienced a strong emotion?
- What kind of failure has your character suffered in their life? How did they handle that failure?
- What kind of person is your character at the end of the day?
How Do You Make a Fictional Character Not Flat?
Give Your Character a Unique Voice
One of the quickest ways to spot a flat character is if they all sound the same. When different characters in your story have the same voice, it’s hard for readers to tell them apart. Especially in dialogue. To avoid this, ensure that each character has a distinct way of speaking. This could be something as simple as using different slang words or constructions or something more subtle, like varying sentence structure or word choice. Pay attention to how the people around you speak, and try to mimic that in your writing.
Make Them Relatable
No one wants to read about a perfect person. We all have our quirks and baggage, and your characters should be no different. By making your characters relatable, you make them more real and relatable for your readers. Relatable characters also make it easier for readers to understand their motivations and actions. To make your characters relatable, give them flaws and weaknesses that will make them sympathetic and believable to your reader. Sometimes, this can express through body language.
Give Them Depth
What makes a person interesting? Their hobbies? Their passions? Their secrets? All of the above? The same goes for your characters. You need to give them depth beyond their basic description to make them compelling. What do they like to do in their free time? What are their hopes and dreams? What are their fears? Build in character twists.
Write Them as People, Not as Plot Devices
One of the easiest ways to spot a flat character is if they only exist to further the plot without having any agency. For your characters to feel real, they need to be driving the plot forward, not just passively reacting to events as they unfold around them.
Character Archetypes Every Writer Needs to Know
The hero is the main character of the story. The hero often tries to save or make the world a better place. Examples of heroes include Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen, and Luke Skywalker.
The mentor is a wise and experienced figure who helps the hero on his or her journey. The mentor often provides guidance, wisdom, and support when the hero needs it most. Examples of mentors include Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings, Professor Dumbledore from Harry Potter, and Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars.
The Threshold Guardian
A figure who stands in the way of the hero and their goal. The threshold guardian can be either positive or negative; they may be trying to help the hero by testing them or trying to stop them outright. Threshold guardians include Hagrid from Harry Potter, Mufasa from The Lion King, and Darth Vader from Star Wars.
The dark side of the hero’s personality. The shadow is often repressed because it threatens the hero’s ego or is socially unacceptable. However, the shadow always comes out eventually. Examples of shadows include Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter, Gaston from Beauty and the Beast, and Kylo Ren from Star Wars.
A light-hearted character who uses their wit and cunning to help (or hinder) the hero on their journey. The trickster is often chaotic and unpredictable, keeping things interesting for the hero and the reader. Examples of tricksters include the Weasley twins from Harry Potter, Merry and Pippin from The Lord of the Rings, and Han Solo from Star Wars.
The Damsel in Distress
A woman who needs rescuing by the Hero. The damsel in distress often motivates the Hero to take action and pursue their goals. Examples of damsels in distress include Princess Leia from Star Wars, Belle from Beauty and the Beast, and Anna from Frozen.
The Love Interest
A character who develops romantic feelings for the Hero throughout the story. Love interests are often used to develop the Hero’s character arc further or provide motivation for them to pursue their goals. Examples of love interests include Hermione Granger from Harry Potter, Arwen from The Lord of the Rings, and Rey from Star Wars.