• Jessica Sherry

10 Ideas for Character Development & Writing Prompts Inspired by Childhood

To help in character development and your story in general, consider childhood. A person's beliefs about themselves grow from childhood experiences. Even setting aside life-altering events, there's value in the small things. How a character plays, for example, can reveal a lot about who he is.

Growing up, I had many sleepovers, but two stand out. First, the night Carrie and I made a Polly Pocket water globe in a Pepsi bottle. And second, the night Rachel and I found a poster-sized piece of cardboard and constructed a collage of things we liked from magazines, things we hoped to have someday (I realize now, this was a vision board, but I didn’t know that then). Using our imaginations produced something really, really cool. Not only did we fill the time, but we made memories together.

Here's our teenaged vision board, recently salvaged from my childhood home.

In Rachel's defense, I believe I was the boy-crazy one. :)

These memories serve to inspire writing prompts. The more we know our characters, the better we can push them forward, even if our plot has little or nothing to do with their childhoods.

  • A vision board could spark ideas about your main characters. What would you clip and paste to represent who your character is and what she wants?

  • Did your story's main character create things as a child? If so, what? Did that object become trash or treasure?

  • Was she big on toys or more interested in the boxes they came in? What did she play with most?

  • Did your character host or attend sleepovers? What's her best and worst sleepover-related memories?

“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” ~ Thomas Edison, inventor

 Of course, the man who invented the lightbulb, the phonograph, and the motion picture (just to name a few) probably wouldn’t have thought much of our water globe and collage, but two friends creating something out of trash, I think Edison would agree that’s an evening well-spent. 

  • Is your character a screen-fiend? Or does she prefer turning the pages of a book or taking a walk to trolling Facebook?

  • What would she do with a pile of junk?

A night spent creating anything yields a better payoff than one spent in front of the TV or phone or computer or whatever. Putting the screens away leads to sparking creativity and engaging our imaginations--a good reminder for us writers and for our characters. Just don't put your screen away until you spend some quality time on my blog. *smirk.

  • Has your character ever created something out of nothing?

  • Is she a creative or does she struggle to think outside the box? How does this personality trait impact her life?

  • What's something your main character would invent to make her life easier?

  • What's an invention she couldn't live without... perhaps something created by Edison?

Come up with some spectacular ideas to drive your story forward? Join the conversation below. Also, check out more story writing prompts on my blog: www.coffeebrained.com.