OK, this prompt is not as spooky as the title might lead you to believe.
Since we’ve started talking about ‘character’, let’s stay there for a while.
It can be hard to come up with a fascinating character for each new story. Yes, you can certainly use recurring characters, but what about when you get bored and need a change? You’ve raided your memories, you’ve looked at pictures for inspiration, but what to do on a day when you’re truly stuck?
Write A Story Based On An Obituary
Seriously, obituaries are like little potted character studies. Read them carefully and you’ll find stories there you never would have thought of: the little old lady in the nursing home who was actually a counter-espionage agent during WWII; the mother of four who loved to race go-karts; the business leader who quietly spent his retirement raising prize-winning orchids.
Characters, every one!
And if you feel strange ripping off someone else’s life story, try to see it as a celebration of their life instead. Change the names, change the details, but the story you write that was inspired by the obituary will remain a tribute to the unique human being you read about.
Where To Find Obituaries
- Your local newspaper’s website
- Reading about the great and good can be interesting, but paging down to the unsung, everyday people can be where you find the most unexpected and fruitful material.
- Seize on that one detail about a person that makes them seem real to you.
- What made them do the things they did?
- What stories lie behind their passions?
- What moment led them to that one fascinating detail in their obituary. Wind back the clock and show us the moment when it all started.
- Try not to read more than five profiles before choosing one to write about. You could easily lose your whole day looking for the perfect character (or simply reading about people’s lives). Pick the first person who has a detail that makes you go “huh!”