2019 Day 10 – Character Action

How did you get on yesterday? Did you write a story?

This is when the challenge gets really tough: the novelty has worn off and the end of the month seems a long time away. But keep going! If you keep writing through this week, you’ll still be writing at the end of the month and that is going to feel really good.

Lean on the support in the comments, to spur you on!

The Prompt

Write A story about yesterday’s character, all grown up

Today’s exercise owes a lot to Donald Mass’s book The Emotional Craft of Fiction.

Yesterday I challenged you to write about an incident earlier in the life of a character you’d come back to, today.

Today I want you to bear in mind the inner struggle of that character, once they’ve had time to create some damaging behaviors based on the incident in yesterday’s story.

Now, pick an action, a physical act, that they can perform in this story. Make it significant to the character.

My example: in Die Hard, when John McClane picks up a photo of his family (back when they were a happy family), he winces, and it shows us everything we need to know about what this character wants, and what’s standing in his way (hint: it’s his own behavior).

Add a moment like that to your story today. No inner-monologue. No telling the reader why it’s significant. Just use all our senses to pull us into the moment.

Check back every day for more prompts, and don’t forget to come back and leave a comment to celebrate your writing successes, every day!

2019 Day 9 – Character Damage

How did you get on yesterday? Did you write a story?

Remember, set your own rules, and stick to them. If you miss a day, don’t try to catch up. Just keep moving forward!

The Prompt

Write A story about the childhood damage of a character you’ll write about tomorrow

Today’s story owes a lot to Lisa Cron’s book Story Genius, in which she talks about how childhood beliefs can become problems for adult characters.

Behaviors that protected your character as a child (for example, an abandoned child’s tendency to keep people at a distance, or conversely to be too clingy, doesn’t serve them well as an adult.)

Every character needs an inner conflict, to make them interesting.

Today write a vivid story about something that happened early in life to a character you’ll come back to, tomorrow.

Check back every day for more prompts, and don’t forget to come back and leave a comment to celebrate your writing successes, every day!

[Write On Wednesday] A Gargoyle’s-Eye View

Have you signed up for StoryADay May 2019 yet?

I’ll send you a prompt like this, every day in May.

This week we all watched in horror as Notre Dame burned. It was a great loss for human cultural heritage and a personal wrench for many.

And it made me wonder about other stories we might tell.

Image: A Gargoyle's Point of View by Sharon Mollerus

The Prompt

Write a story from the perspective of a non-human character


Continue reading “[Write On Wednesday] A Gargoyle’s-Eye View”

[Write On Wednesday] Your Character’s Damage

This month I’m giving you prompts that work in different ways to support your long-form fiction/novel writing. Today’s prompt digs deep into your protagonist’s past.


Photo credit: GôDiNô

The Prompt

Write the story of the childhood event that scarred your character


  • If you haven’t already, get hold of a copy of Lisa Cron’s Story Genius and read all about character misbeliefs. Re-read it, if you own a copy!
  • Every character has to have a flaw. Maybe you decided that yours was commitment-phobic, or that she was overly-honest, or that she couldn’t hold down a job. There are lots of ways that could be fun in a novel, but a deeper question is: Why?
  • What happened to your main character at an earlier point in their life, that caused them to begin acting this way?
  • Once you know that, the subtle ways she reacts will change. She won’t just be commitment-phobic, she’ll get unreasonably angry when anyone promises to take her on vacation, because when she was nine her dad promised to take her on vacation but instead blew the money taking his new girlfriend to Vegas, and your main character never had a real relationship with him again after that.
  • In Story Genius Lisa Cron asserts that harmful adult behaviors originate in behaviors that were actually protective, at some point. So, by not trusting her Dad again, your main character protected herself from getting hurt by him. But that pattern of behavior stopped serving her at some point (probably right around the time your novel starts) and she has to learn to overcome it. Knowing what caused her to begin acting that way is extremely useful.
  • Digging into your character’s past gives you news ways to show their flaws in your novel.


Photo credit: GôDiNô

What did you write about? Leave a comment!

[Write on Wednesday] Different Selves

When I was 12 years old and living in Scotland, I had a friend whose parents were English. We walked home from the bus stop together every night, chattering away in colorful local accents and colloquialisms. But as soon as my friend reached her front door, she would call out, “Hallo, Mummy, I’m home!” in the most pukka English accent you could ever hope to hear.

She didn’t even know she was doing it.

Maybe it’s because I have my parents staying with me at the moment, but I’ve been thinking about the ways our characters change, depending on who we’re with. My McCarroll tendencies  come out while they’re visiting.  I become more laid-back (or as my husband calls it ‘late’), and more spontaneous (or ‘disorganized and indecisive’). Even my accent gets more Scottish (see last week’s podcast).

I’m sure my parents are equally bemused by my ‘sudden’ need to know what everyone’s plans are for the day, since nobody in our family ever really had plans until the last minute (see? Spontaneous!).

So today I want you to explore that, with your character.

The Prompt

Write a story that shows you character in three different scenes, interacting with people who bring out different sides of their character.


  • Families are great for this. How we act around our parents and/or siblings is almost certainly different from how we act around our best friends. How we act with our spouse is probably different again.
  • How we act with a truly terrible lover who is all wrong for us, is a whole other category of behavior, especially when contrasted with interactions with people who really love us.
  • Stress is another great way to reveal a different side of a character. Some people are great under pressure. Some get angry. Some whine. Some cower. Some people turn into unexpected leaders in a crisis, while others who you’d expect to lead, become indecisive or cowardly.
  • Think about using cultural differences. For example, think about my friend who was Scottish on the street and English in the house. Think about how Barack Obama’s rhetorical style slipped along a spectrum from Harvard Intellectual to Southern Baptist Preacher depending on the crowd he was talking to (not that those two things are mutually exclusive, of course!). Think about how a hideously prejudiced old man can be genuinely sweet and generous to his own grandchild.

Leave a comment and let us know how it went




[Writing Prompt] Day 9 – Character Desires Are Key

Knowing what a character wants, tells us what’s at stake in the story. Conflict between the character’s desire and their circumstances will keep your reader hooked.

The Prompt

Establish, within the first couple of sentences, your character’s desire. Put them in a situation that conflicts with that desire. Tell us how it works out.


It’s important for a reader to know what your character wants.

Once they know what your character wants, is afraid of, would never do, or desperately wants to do, the reader knows WHY they’re reading this story. That will keep them reading.

Keep it simple. In a short story, you can only examine one of your character’s desire.

[Write On Wednesday] The One Thing They’d Notice

Today’s prompt was inspired by an exercise in Donald Maass’s latest book The Emotional Craft of Fiction. You can find the whole exercise on p.22 of that book.

The Prompt

Write a story featuring two characters in the same location. Pick a detail that only your protagonist would notice and weave it into the story. 


Continue reading “[Write On Wednesday] The One Thing They’d Notice”

The Protagonist’s Journal – A writing prompt

Continuing our series of prompts to help novelists as well as short story writers, today I encourage you to move forward a little in your protagonist’s timeline, but still stay before the main story.

The Prompt

Write a story about the days leading up to the beginning of your novel, or your story’s big incident. Alternatively, write a journal of those days from your protagonist’s point of view.


  • Use this story to ‘brain dump’ all the stuff that your reader doesn’t want to wade through before they get to the jumping-off-point for your story.
  • You can use this knowledge to season the story later, with a light hand.
  • Remember, you can recycle these stories are freebies and giveaways to help you promote your novel and build your audience.

Don’t forget to leave a comment to let us know how you got on, or post in The Victory Dance

Turning Point – A writing prompt for novelists

This week I’m focusing on prompts that novelists can use. If you’re  novelist, I don’t want you to feel like you’re wasting your time here at StoryADay May. While short story writers can easily use these prompts, too, you novelists will find much in them that enriches your work-in-progress.

Let’s dive in:

The Prompt

Write a story that investigates a turning point in your protagonist’s past.


  • Every interesting character has an internal struggle fighting with (or complementing) the external struggle of the plot. It usually stems from a character flaw/defect/protection mechanism they’ve been building for years. Use this prompt to write a story that captures the beginning of that character development.
  • If you don’t have a novel or work in progress, investigate a character from an earlier story you’ve written (or one you hope to write).

Lisa Cron’s Story Genius (referenced in the video) can be found here or requested through your local indie bookstore.

Getting Emotional – a writing prompt from Angela Ackerman

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Today, Angela Ackerman invites us to think about our character’s past emotional trauma and how it affects them in the present.

This is a really useful exercise for deepening any character in any length of story. Use it for a character from a novel, or for the character in a short story. It can’t help but make your story more rich.

And remember: emotion is the key to a reader connecting with your story.

The Prompt

Emotional trauma is an experience, or set of experiences, that can change your character in fundamental ways, altering their personality, embedding fears in their minds, affecting their ability to connect and trust others, and steering their needs and desires during your story.

Write about a wounding experience from your character’s past that changed them into who they are today.

HINT: most wounding experiences involve someone close to the character as it is the people closest to us who are able to do the most psychological damage.

For emotional wound ideas, try this list: https://onestopforwriters.com/wounds

About Angela Ackerman

Angela Ackerman is a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of The Emotion Thesaurus: a Writer’s Guide to Character Expression and four other bestselling writing guides. A proud indie author, her books are available in five languages, sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors and psychologists around the world.

Angela is also the co-founder of the popular site, Writers Helping Writers, as well as One Stop For Writers, an innovative online library built to help writers elevate their storytelling.