3 Things You Need to Know Before You Start Writing

by Joe Bunting | 46 comments

“My secret to writing is to never create at a keyboard,” says the distinguished author, Thomas Steinbeck, the son of John Steinbeck.

You have to know something about your book before you begin to write your story. I think this is true whether you like to plot your novel before you write or not. You don't need to know everything, but you do need to know something.

For those of you participating in NaNoWriMo, this is especially important. You don't want to spend your first days plotting or doing characterization exercises. Before November 1, make sure you have spent some time thinking about your story before you start writing.

Before You Start Writing

Photo by Erin Kohlenberg

Thomas Steinbeck writes:

For me it's about knowing the story… with such detail that I'm basically testifying in front of my audience You could ask me a year from now and I'd tell you the exact same thing because it's that solidified in my memory.”

You might not need to know your story in such exacting detail, but you should have a deep understanding of a few core pieces of your story. Here are three things you might want to know before you begin writing:

1. A Character

Stories are about characters, and before you begin, it's good to have a deep understanding of your main character. William Faulkner said:

It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.

If you're character isn't trotting off on his own, you can ask him the following questions:

  • What do you value most in life?
  • What do you want?
  • What are you afraid of?
  • What do you do?
  • What do you need?
As your character answers these questions, you'll begin to see possibilities to move your story forward.

2. Setting

If you have a deep understanding of your setting, it brings a quiet authority to your writing. You may not describe the setting much in the story, but you should still be able to visualize it in detail. Setting can be like a character, another component for the main character to interact with.

You may want to use a setting you know personally, such as your hometown, the park next to your house, or your favorite restaurant. If you're writing a thriller or historical fiction, do research on your setting to make sure it's accurate. If you're writing fantasy or science fiction, spend time exploring your setting in your imagination until you know every detail.

3. An Image or Event

Before I begin a story or a scene, I often visualize an image or an event that happens later in the story. Then, I just try to figure out an interesting way to get there. This technique strikes a nice balance between plotting and pantsing. You know where you're going, but there's still enough room to discover exciting things about your characters and plot before you get there.

What You Shouldn't Know Before You Start Writing

Writers often deliver moral lessons in their stories. For example, I just finished The Perks of Being a Wallflower (which was amazing, by the way), a novel about the importance of  participating in life. Les Miserables is about the power of redemption. The Life of Pi is about the importance of faith. Romeo and Juliet is about the power of love.

It's tempting to come up with a lesson that you want to teach before you begin writing. Don't do it.

Morals should serve the story, not the other way around. This may be hard for some of you; it was certainly hard for me, but if you want to tell fables or parables, find a different hobby. Storytellers are not pastors or philosophers. Storytellers are in the business of telling good stories, not instructing people in moral truth or the “correct” way to live.

If you try to tell a story to “prove” a moral lesson, the story will be lifeless. However, if you are true to your story, if you tell your story well, the story will reveal a moral lesson all on its own.

What about you? What do you need to know before you begin a story?

PRACTICE

Spend some time developing a deep understanding of a character. Ask your character:

  • What do you value most in life?
  • What do you want?
  • What are you afraid of?
  • What do you do?
  • What do you need?

Write your character's answers to these questions for fifteen minutes. When you're finished, share your practice in the comments section. And if you share, please be sure to comment on a few practices by other writers.

Have fun!

How to Write Like Louise PennyWant to write like Louise Penny? Join our new class and learn how. Learn more and sign up here.

Join Class

Next LIVE lesson is coming up soon!

Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris, a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

Want best-seller coaching? Book Joe here.

46 Comments

  1. Gregorylambpdxauthor

    Excellent advice and sound approach.  

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Thanks Gregory!

  2. Meghan Malcolm-Kenyon

    Sara sits with her right leg crossed over her left, but
    instead of leaving her right foot dangling like most, she sways in back and
    forth in a fast rhythmic pattern. A zig-zag of brown roots displays itself on
    the top of her wavy blonde hair that reaches down past her chest. She has a
    pixie-like face: almost-oversized, deep brown eyes, a long noise that comes to
    a point in the centre of her face, and perfectly shaped lips, minus the fact
    that they are so thin she can barely wear lipstick.

     

    I sit down in the seat across from her and arrange my
    notepad while she sips on her black coffee to give herself something to do in
    the silence.

     

    “Sara, how are you today?”

    Her thin lips raise, almost to her nose, in a wide smile,
    “Good, how are you?”

    “Great. Thanks for meeting with me on such short notice. We
    have about fifteen minutes, so let’s dive right in!”

    “Sure!”

    “Okay. First question. What do you value most?”

    “Oh wow…ummm.” She pauses to calculate her words, but the
    silence makes her anxious so she begins to fill the space with random comments.
    “Hmmm. I…I guess…My fiancé. I know, I’m young. But we’ve been together a long
    time and he’s my best friend. Other than him, I value what I do. I have to
    always be doing something that’s worthwhile, seemingly successful, and mildly
    world changing. Working a job for the sake of money, is not something I know
    how to do. So yeah, I value my goals. My dreams, I guess you could say.”

     

    “Good. Good. Next question, what do you want?”

    “Oh that’s easy! I want to have an incredible marriage. One
    where we still get caught making out, even when we’re eighty. I want to have a
    lot of kids. A lot of our own and some adopted. I want to start my own
    coffeeshop. One that blows the city away. One that is always busy and people
    love to come to it. I want to get my English degree. Then I want to write
    books. Books that turn into movies. And I get asked to do the screenplays. You
    know, so they don’t mess anything up.” She giggles to enforce that her comment
    wasn’t meant to be snobby or rude. “I want a lot of things…I’m always dreaming
    up new things for myself…but I’m thinking you need to ask your next question,
    right?” She stares at me with her big eyes quizzically.

     

    “Yeah I do. Tell me now, what are you afraid of?”

     

    “Oh. I guess of all the stuff that I want never happening.
    You know, my dreams never coming true. Me just being ordinary. Yeah…I’d saying
    being ordinary is my biggest fear.”

    “What do you do?”

     

    “I work for-“

    I quickly interrupt her well rehearsed “Where do you work?”
    answer and clarify, “No, I mean like what are something things that you do.
    Things that make you , you. Quirks, habits…that type of thing.”

     

    “Okay. Let me think…I…I’m forgetful. I’m not very patient. I
    get cold really, really fast. I absolute hate the feeling of hunger so I snack
    all day long. I think about what people think about me waayyyy too much. I
    sleep on my back. People who are really affectionate and complimentary are
    usually my favourite. Mostly, because I don’t have to worry about what they
    think of me cause I know it’s good things. But also because, I’m not like that
    at all and I wish I was. I am always doing some kind of pattern in my mind or
    swaying my foot crazily…like I am right now.” She laughs nervously. “I like to
    write…I love coffee. I, yeah….I hope that answers your question for now.”

     

    “And lastly, what do you need?”

    “Well, I guess I think of a in a relationship because that’s
    where you ask yourself this question. So in that situation, I need to be touched
    and cuddled. A lot. I need to know that I’m wanted and adored. And I like to
    know in ways that are affectionate and romantic. In life in general…I need to
    be successful. I need to be doing something that contributes to my dreams. I
    need spending money.” She pauses to laugh. “I like to buy things randomly so it’s
    nice to actually be able to afford them.” 

    Reply
    • Kate Hewson

      OOh. i like that Meghan!! i was just going to write a list, but I love this interview format. Sara sounds interesting and very nice, if maybe a little insecure. I wonder what is going to happen to her in her story.

    • Juliana Austen

      Brilliant Meghan! What a way to get to know your character – thank you I have shamelessly copied your approach!

    • Joe Bunting

      Nice, Meghan. Very un-ordinary. 🙂 

      So now how are you going to mess with her? Are you going to take her relationship away? Are you going to make her feel ordinary?

  3. Kate Hewson

    This is good timing Joe – I have written most of my plan for nanowrimo, and I know my setting, but I keep feeling like I need to know my characters better. A friend sent me an exercise as well today that gets you to look at your characters as if they were pieces of furniture or animals or types of weather and describe them like that. i thought that was interesting. Anyway, here is my practice: My character is a type of traveler, like a Romany, but my own version. She is part of a large family, and was promised as a bride to her cousin before she was even 1 years old. She is 16 at the start of my tale. These are her answers to your questions:
     “What do I value? I like my pretty pendant, and the ocarina Marianna made for me…she was a sort of aunt, but I don’t see her anymore. I can play tunes on it! I taught myself! And I love our Horse, Jolly. He’s really strong, he can pull our whole caravan with all of us in it! And…I love my family…kind of…
     What do I want? I’d like to feel that I was the special one for a change. I know Papa wanted me to be a BOY, as if we didn’t already have enough of those! It would be great if I didn’t have to marry Emilian. I was promised to him when I was a baby. Emilian doesn’t even seem to like me that much. And I want Marianna back, but ma says not even TALK about her, because she has gone and she’s not part of our family anymore.
    What am I afraid of? Being married to Emilian forever and ever and just doing chores for the rest of my life like my Ma. Oh, and Mr Guardare – he’s REALLY scary…he’s not one of us, but he travels with us sometimes. He tells the Gadjos their fortunes and they pay him for it. He told my Ma a prophecy about me when I was a baby, but my Ma says its just fairytales, and we make our OWN futures as we go along. I have nightmares about it though sometimes, because he said I was going to die and be buried TWICE. And he told this Gadji woman her house would burn down once, and it DID. My Ma says he knew that because he was planning to burn it down himself, but how do you know?
    What do I do? I help Ma with the chores – collecting food, cooking, helping with the babies, and then we do the Weaving for the Gadjos. The Dream Weaving. Ma says its better than fortune telling any day.
    What do I need? Erm…I need to find some MONEY…or a rich Gadjo who will whisk me away and treat me like a Queen for the rest of my life! Ma says I’m just dreaming, and dreaming is best left for the Gadjos. She says I’m to marry Emilian and have a family, and that will be all the riches I need.”

    I REALLY enjoyed doing that! I can;t wait to start writing this novel!!!

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      This is a lot of fun, Kate. I was thinking about the His Dark Materials trilogy as I read this. Have you read those? Thanks for practicing! 

    • Kate Hewson

      Thanks, Joe, and I have read Northern Lights and didn’t get any further. I must get back to that at some point!
      Thank you for giving us somewhere to practice!

    • Joe Bunting

      I think if you’ve read the first one, you should have a good idea of the tone and the world. Pullman’s a brilliant writer, but the series gets a bit preachy and boring in the last book.

    • Kate Hewson

      Right…maybe i won’t read it then. i had to say he lost me a little with the Ice Bear thing.

    • Jeff Ellis

      I loved this. You did a great job of not only describing your character, but her family. If you enjoy stories about traveling performers, you should definitely look into Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. Not only is it my favorite book, it’s all about a man who grew up as a sort of Romany and there are several chapters about his youth among the nomadic performers.

      Great practice!

    • Kate Hewson

      Thanks Jeff! I’ll look out for the book you recommended!

    • Mirelba

      This sounds really great!  I was wondering, however, what time period  this is being written in?  Your character seems like a fun person to get to know, but she sounded pretty modern to me (despite being promised in marriage in her first year- but then what do I know, maybe that’s still done in some cultures…)

    • Kate Hewson

      I did a little research into Romany cultures, and in some places this does still happen. Having said that, my story is fantasy fiction, and I didn’t really have a time period set for it. It kind of looks like fairytale land in my head. maybe I need to think about that then.
      Thanks for your feedback!

    • Mirelba

      Sounds good to me. You sounded very “Romany” to me, so I guess you really did good research 🙂 Just out of curiosity, since I’m working on research now too, how long did you spend on research? (It seems that the more I learn, the more information I need to find out more about…)

    • Kate Hewson

      Not masses of time…I’ve been planning my book for nanowrimo for the past couple of weeks, and spent probably…4 -6 hours altogether just googling Romany culture and seeing what i could find. Not solidly – I spent half an hour here, and hour there…I also read a little of a book called Dukkering boy, which is another romany tale, just to give myself a feel for it. I plan to do some more research at some point. Their culture is a little closed – they seem to have a lot that they don’t tell non-romany folk so I am making some things up myself!

    • Mirelba

      Thanks for the feedback! My book is more rooted in history, and I’ve spent hours reading up on it. I think I have a good grasp of the psychology of the time, but there are still so many holes. I think I better get some sleep if I want to get some work done tomorrow.

  4. Juliana Austen

    This was SUCH a timely post – I have been struggling with my character for a while and Meghan’s “interview” idea is brilliant! I ended up interviewing the man my character is based on and from that I was able to at last separate out my fictional man! The Tavern on the corner of Drake and Sale streets has a back room – of a late afternoon it is full of old salts, drinking and yarning.  They are or were sailors of the tall ships. They have sailed in the cyclones of The Tropics, they have sailed among the ice of the Great Southern Ocean. They climbed high spars, they mended heavy canvas sails, they navigated by the stars and they explored uncharted territories. They are aristocrats. They are also tough, rough and often the worse for drink.Tom Jackson sits in the back – he is a quiet man, he nurses his beer, and he listens, occasionally he smiles.What do you value most in life Tom?I value my independence, my freedom. I value justice and a fair deal for the ordinary man, the working man.What do you want?A fast ship and the ability to go wherever and whenever I want.What are you afraid of?Being caught, found out, exposed, shut away.What do you do?I am a Master Mariner. I have explored and discovered, I have seen and heard unspeakable things and wonderful things – I can tell you about them if you like.What do you need?I need peace, maybe I need the confessional to get that peace. I need to know that all that I have done, all that I have seen has helped in some way. Right now I need another beer.

    Reply
    • Kate Hewson

      Someone get the guy a beer! This is great Juliana – he’s got a very deep gravelly voice in my head. He seems like a very strong character!

    • Juliana Austen

      Thank you Kate!

    • Jeff Ellis

      Wow, what an awesome person! I would love to meet him 🙂 Great practice Juliana.

    • Juliana Austen

      Thanks!

    • Joe Bunting

      Very cool, Juliana. Lots of potential here. I love those rough, wise, experienced characters. You should think about adding an innocent, naive, unexperienced character to reveal the tension, perhaps someone who he wants to make sure doesn’t have to go to the confessional for peace.

    • Juliana Austen

      Thank you Joe. I’m thinking maybe I’ll use this scene as a prologue and he can tell us all about his past – for a beer of course! Early days yet but your prompts are so wonderfully helpful!

    • Joe Bunting

      I’m so glad they’re helpful! 

      I’d avoid using much backstory too early in the story. You can certainly make it work, but it tends to slow the story down right when you need to capture your reader.

  5. Jeff Ellis

    This was a really fun practice. As a side note: I’ve always heard that good fantasy is two parts reality, one part fantasy. Giving your readers a sense of home in the fidelity of your setting (or your characters) is important to making them feel welcome. To this effect, when writing my settings for fantasy stories (and subsequently other genres) I like to research specific types of habitats or cultures. 

    For instance, I am writing a fantasy story at the moment where my character is traveling through a forest, much like those we would find in the Pacific Northwest. So I looked up coniferous trees/plants/etc. and the types of animals that live there. Changing “tree” to “blister pine” or “frog” to “woodfrog” creates a more specific reality for readers to cling to when you start talking about “mist dragons” and “arch wizards”.

    Anyway, I interviewed my character Caleb, who lives in a “green apocalypse”. This means that while Earth as we know it is over, the end of society due to a mass exodus of the human race (explained later in the books), instead of something like war, or famine, or an oil crisis. Nature has reclaimed the planet and the few humans still living on the planet are doing what they can to survive, but it’s not a safe place to grow up. Caleb’s fourteen at the start of the story and lives with his mother, father, sister, brother, and grandfather. Without giving too much away, here is his interview:

    What do you value most in life?
    The days when I don’t have to stay in the shelter. Mom gets scared whenever Leah and I go up top, but that’s just how she is. I guess she knows what she’s talking about; Dad says she used to live in the forest before he met her. I wish I could live in the forest.

    What do you want?
    To live in the forest? (He laughs) When I think about it, that doesn’t sound so great, either. I’ve seen the forest. I want more. When Grandpa used to  take me and Artan fishing, he’d mutter to himself, “A shame, a shame.” He says there’s a “whole world we’ll never see.” Who decided that!? I’m going to see it all.

    What are you afraid of?
    I’m afraid Artan’s going to get worse. Mom won’t stop stressing about him and she never worries. The other night he coughed up blood again. Dad says it’ll be fine, but I see how little medicine we have left. “The caravan will come,” is all he ever says anymore. I know he’s scared too, even if he doesn’t show it. Why are we waiting for someone else to save Artan? 

    …I’m also scared it’s my fault.

    What do you do?
    I like to help my Mom and Dad hunt and some times Artan and I would tend the garden with Grandpa when my parents want to hunt alone. When I don’t have any chores I collect wood to carve the animals I see in my dreams. I’ve never heard of most of them, but Mom is always surprised when I tell her about a new one. She knows most of them.

    What do you need?
    … (He thinks about this a moment) To understand? I need to know why the black beast hunts me. If Artan is going to be okay? I need to know what’s beyond the forest. (He slides out of a distant gaze and laughs) I could really use a new knife. I don’t think the one Artan bought from the caravan last spring is going to last much longer. Grandpa keeps telling me to “Stop using it like an axe!” (He rolls his eyes).

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Hey Jeff!

      I think that’s probably true about fantasy. I like that formula, and I love how you’ve made your setting so specific. 

      Great practice. I especially like his concern over Artan (his brother?). There’s so much potential for tension in that. I hope you make a lot of use with it. 🙂

    • Jeff Ellis

      Thank you so much Joe, I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂

      Artan is Caleb’s older brother, yes, and much of the story revolves around him. I can’t wait for November 🙂

    • Juliana Austen

      Sounds great!

    • Jeff Ellis

      Thanks Juliana!

    • Mirelba

       Oh my gosh- why does he think it’s his fault?  And the black beast?  I want to know more!

      Too bad I’ve sworn off fantasy.  They always seem to be never-ending sagas.  Every time I start one and then end up having to wait forever for the next book to come out I swear I’ll never start one again.  I will now commit heresy and tell you that I broke my vow for George RR Martin’s series, and his last book got me so totally annoyed that this time I’m serious.  NEVER AGAIN!  Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, if you let each book be written so that they can stand alone (more like Rowling than Martin) let me know and I’ll promise to reconsider in your case. 😉

    • Jeff Ellis

      I have no intention of making this an epic, six-thousand part saga. In fact, I intend for this to be one book. And it’s more post-apocalyptic than fantasy. Caleb’s dreams air more toward the fantastical side, with him being something of a prophet, but there are no monsters or dragons or the like in the real world. The black beast refers to an animal in his dreams that neither he nor his mother are familiar with and I won’t tell you why he thinks it’s his fault 🙂

      As for Martin, I am a big fantasy fan and I don’t much care for his books either. I got through the third one and had to say “enough!” They’re honestly too depressing for me and while I think he is a masterful writer and storyteller, he is writing more of a history than a series of novels and it can only keep me interested for so long. Especially when he does such a good job of making it so realistic that you just have to say “the middle ages were awful and I want nothing to do with this,” haha 😛

    • Mirelba

      Oh good! Then let me know when it’s out, you’ve made your first sale 🙂

    • Jeff Ellis

      Hahaha, awesome. I’ll definitely let you know 🙂

    • Kate Hewson

      This is really good, and I want to know why he thinks its his fault too…I have a bad feeling about Artans prognosis. Is this the same story that has your girl in with the self-dyed hair?

    • Jeff Ellis

      Yep! The one and the same 🙂 I’m glad you liked the interview, Kate.

  6. Mirelba

    It is hard to track down Jozef Chladny, but I manage to find
    him eventually in a clearing in the forest behind his home. My ragged breath
    must have alerted him to my presence, because he turns to look at me.  A patch covers his left eye, but his good eye
    is warm, and seems to greet me serenely. 
    Only when I get closer does he actually speak to point out a rock for me
    to sit on. 

    “Dobré
    rano, ” he says to me.

    Good morning to you too, Pan Chladny. I’m sorry to
    disturb you.

    He smiles.  “I am
    glad to see you, to be able to welcome you.”

    You recognize me?

    “To be sure. 
    Your grandparents and your father have sent me pictures.  Besides, I can see your dear grandparents in
    you.”

    Thank you.  It
    means so much to me, to be able to speak to you.  I’m sure you know about the project I’m
    working on, the book.

    “Yes, I know.”

    I have some questions for you, would it be okay to
    interview you now? I’m only allowed fifteen minutes, so I won’t take up too
    much of your town.

    “Please.  But you
    had a very long hike for just 15 minutes.”

    I laugh.  The man has
    a point, but faithful to another Joe, I get straight to the point.  I want to get to really know you, who you are,
    what led you to do the things you did. 
    To understand you better, I’d like to know you, as you were during the
    war years, so let’s go back to that time, and tell me what do you value most in
    life?

    He thinks for a moment. 
    “My home, my family, my country- they are all important to me, but
    more than anything else, I value my freedom.”

    What do you mean by freedom?

    “The right to make my own choices in life, to do the
    right things.”

    Yes, I can understand that.  And what do you want?

    “I want to be able to lift my head and stand tall.  I want to be able to provide for my family. I
    want to be able to roam the woods to view the grace and beauty of God’s animal
    kingdom, explore the miracle of his creation. 
    When it comes my time to leave God’s good earth, I want to be able to
    look him in the eye knowing that I have lived the life of a good person.”

    And your fears, Pan Chladny?  What are you afraid of?

    For a moment, his face turns introspective, and his smile
    disappears.  He heaves a sigh.  ” I fear the anarchy around us, intent
    on crushing the human spirit and limiting his freedom.  I fear the way the bad times have brought out
    the meanness in petty people.  I
    sometimes ask myself, what would I do if put to the test.  I hope I would do the right thing, but I fear
    to find out.”

    You’re a good man, Pan Chladny.  You do the right thing.  He smiles again.  But what do you ‘do’?

    I am a mechanic and locksmith at the local hydro-power
    station.  Sometimes I have to do night
    shifts as well.  When I’m not working, I
    help at home, mowing the grass to make hay for our cow, and what little else I
    have time for.  Maria, my wife—she is
    incredible  She takes care of our four young
    children, her old infirm aunt, our cow and hens and rabbits, the potato
    fields.  She never rests.  .” 
    He whistles a faint tune absent-mindedly and stares unseeing beyond my
    shoulder.  “There isn’t a day that
    goes by that I don’t bless Victor for leaving her when he left Jelenec” he
    adds so softly, that I barely hear him. 
    Then he turns to me once again, and in a stronger voice, adds,  “Whenever I can, I escape to the
    woods.  In the winter, I sometimes sneak
    with me some of the food that Maria sets aside for our livestock to bring to
    the deer in the woods.  Sometimes I go
    hunting to make sure that there is what to eat on our table.”

    Pan Chladny, what is it that you need?

    “Need?” he asks me.  “What could I possibly need?  Don’t I have a wonderful wife and
    family?  A home to live in?  A job?” 
    He stops to ponder.  “I guess
    with the seven of us living in our small,one-bedroom home, I need the space and
    quiet that my walks in the wood bring me. 
    Other than that?  I suppose that
    what I really need is to see an end to this terrible fascist regime, to the
    grey uniforms that walk our streets, to the disrespect and bad manners that
    have replaced the values that we were brought up on.” His voice
    softens.  “I need my freedom.  My country’s freedom.”

     

     Ďakujem, thank
    you.  I guess it’s time for me to go.

    “Prosím,” he says. “Dovidenia.”

    Good by I answer, as I walk back down the mountain.  As I leave, I feel glad to know that I’m
    going to spend the next month getting even closer to this wonderful man and his
    amazing family.  I can’t wait!

     

    Reply
    • Kate Hewson

      This is lovely, Mirelba. He seems like such a gentle, honourable man.

    • Mirelba

      Thanks!  That’s the way I see him, but very strong.

  7. Puffy

    (I’m going to interview my character Ricky Runner. She’s a girl, by the way.)

    What do you value most in life?

    I guess I value my friends and family the most. They’re the people who make you feel loved, make you feel like you should exist in this world 🙂 I don’t know where I’d be without them.

    What do you want?

    Whut? ._. I want…a sandwich? (Sorry, Ricky can have everything she wants right now. She has the power of imagination.)

    What are you afraid of?

    Death. I am absolutely scared of death. I don’t know what dying is like, and I don’t want to know. Well, I’m eventually gonna die but…well…I don’t want this adventure called my life to end, thank you.

    What do you DO?

    I help others…er, that’s it. Other answers: Go to school. Hang out with friends. Live life. Breathe. Talk. Exist. I have such a boring life. (I doubt that, Ricky. I doubt that.)

    What do you need?

    Honestly, I just need to feel loved. I don’t need my powers, or the all the fame and glory, or food and water – wait, I guess I need the last ones – I only need love. FAMILY love. Not LOVE love, like in those romantic…lovey…oh glob, I made things all weird now D:

    Sigh. I have created such a strange and wonderful character 😀

    Reply
  8. Karl Tobar

    My next project is going to be a short story.  It’s about a young boy who lives in a small family tribe in the cold, wild north.  His name is Pa’tik.  One night, they are telling campfire stories.  His grandfather is telling them about the Chagram: the beast with a man’s body and the head of a boar.  Lo and behold, the Chagram attacks right after the story and Pa’tik flees while his family is killed and eaten by the monster.  A hot pursuit ensues and Pa’tik is put to the test as he practices the hunting skills learned by his father.  I decided to interview both Pa’Tik and the Chagram since they are the main characters.

    Pa’tik, what do you value most in life?
    “I value my family.  They are the most important people to me.  Everyone else I meet may be a friend or enemy, but I will never love them like my family.  They will not understand me as my family does.”

    What do you want?
    “I want to be like my father.  I am too young, yet, to be a skilled hunter.  I am too young to have a family to provide for.  But one day I will be like him.”

    What are you afraid of?
    “I am afraid of growing up.  I am afraid of the responsibility that will come with it.  The change scares me.  I’m so used to the way things are now.”

    What do you do?
    “In the early morning hours and at night, I practice hunting and combat with my father.  He says it’s better to practice at night, in the dark.  You don’t rely on your eyes as much when you can’t use them.  During the day, I play with my little brother.  Sometimes mother takes us to play with the children from the other tribes around the forest, but not too often.  Friends are second to family.”

    What do you need?
    “My father has taught me that nature provide me with all I need.”

    Mr. Chagram, thank you for joining us.  I understand that you are part man, part boar.  If you don’t mind me asking, what do you value in life?

    “Food, eating.  Sleeping.  I sleep for a hundred years, you know.  You could scarcely imagine my appetite when I wake up.”

    What do you want?
    “To eat all the people.  I prefer the people to the animals of the forest.  They are easier to catch and there are generally more of them.  I like it when they are fat.”

    What are your fears?
    “Are you kidding?  I’m the Chagram.  I don’t fear.  My inferior brain does not have room for fear; it houses hunger and rage.  Things fear me; I do not fear things.”

    What do you do?
    “I sleep for a hundred years in a well-hidden spot in the forest.  It’s so well-hidden that nobody has ever seen it.  The first thing I do when I wake up is check that the moon is full.  If it’s not, I grumble a bit and go back to sleep.  Then when the moon is full, I wake up and begin my quest of eating all the people.  I think I’ll start with you, interviewer.  Omnomnom.”  ~burp~ 

    Reply
  9. Madame Jai

    I am rather new to this and have been sitting on an idea for
    a while now. It wasn’t until recently (about a month or so ago) that I decided
    to take action and pursue the idea of making it into an actual novel. I have to
    say the brainstorming process has been very exciting and at times stressful as
    well. After reading, your article I was more than excited to give it a try on
    my main character. So here was the interview for my story’s main character,
    Jain Taylor.

    Mrs. Taylor is a suburban wife and mother of two. She’s been
    married to her husband Lee Taylor for about 10 years now. Jain and her husband
    were high school sweethearts who married soon after graduation.

    Ms. Jain, what do you value most in life?

    What do
    I value most in life? I’ve never really thought about that much before. I
    suppose my family first and foremost. I love my children to heaven and back. I
    think, happiness takes precedence as well. I’ve been married to my husband for
    10 years now and I just feel like it’s become mechanical, you know? There’s no
    fire, no sizzle. I’ve tried countless times to inspire new sparks between us
    but I get no results. It’s been years since I’ve felt the vibrations of a real
    orgasm and even then things weren’t so great between us. I’m sorry, I usually
    don’t speak like this. I really didn’t mean to speak so personally.

    Ms. Jain, what is that you want?

    Hmm,
    what do I want? Well isn’t it obvious I want to feel like a woman again. I feel
    like I am so much more than just a suburban wife and mother of two. I think I
    look rather great personally for having gone through so much in life at my age.
    I mean I’m only 29 but most woman my age and with similar backgrounds don’t
    look this great in my opinion. But sadly, I am a wasted beauty. My husband can’t
    even bare to look at me as the woman that I am. Do you know that I am a
    diamond? I am intelligent, beautiful, charismatic, and willing. I am also
    loyal, honest, and creative. If he can’t see that, well, then how can anyone
    see that? I must be missing something then. That’s it then, I want to know what’s
    missing.

    Jain, what are you afraid of?

    I’ve
    known this forever and a day it seems may be the reason I rushed into marriage
    and a family… I’m afraid of being alone.

    Jain, what do you do?

    Well on
    an average day I begin with clocking out of work. You see, I am a residential
    assistant who works third shift. My hours begin at 11 pm and end at 7am the
    next morning. My mornings are often a rush or a blur. I get the boys up for
    school and prepare a quick breakfast for all to enjoy. My husband is the first
    to leave. He is a gym teacher and coach at our local high school. This year he
    has an early study hall class so he needs to leave for work early now. After
    breakfast I see my boys off as they ride the bus to school. When I return home
    I usually try and tidy up the home some before going off to bed for a few
    hours. I start my winding down process shower, food, TV or whatever may peak my
    curiosity at the time, and eventually I will nod off. I wake up around, say 1
    or 2 in the afternoon. And I act as if I am starting my day. I do the usual
    routine brush teeth, brush hair, dress for the day and I finish cleaning the
    house. I do my normal housewife duties for the rest of the day cooking dinner,
    cleaning, caring for the children. Yes, I’m sure these things seem quite boring
    and I can assure you on most days it really is. My husband doesn’t usually get
    in until 8 pm after coaching the female swim team. He really believes they have
    a strong line- up this year. He’s thinking championship games. I do hope they
    win. Anyway, by then the children are in bed and I am trying to sneak in a few
    more hours of sleep myself before I head off to work. At most I may get to
    spend half an hour with my husband during work days. At work, I care for the
    elderly. Poor things to think they were once so vibrant and lively. A lot of
    them were as independent as you and I and now look at them. They can’t even
    brush their own teeth without any assistance, well, provided that they do have
    teeth. All alone, with no one left to care for them just the daily staff of
    strangers in and out of the facilities. Sad, really.

    Ms. Jain what do you need?

    Well, I’d really like a glass of water. All this talking has
    me quite parched. But I suppose if I must answer. I mean if I must sum up all
    of my needs in one answer. I think, it would be best said that I need to feel
    alive again. I’ve been talking of wanting to feel like a woman, and wanting to
    loved, and wanting to be seen as more. And yes, these are things that I feel I
    desire the most, but why is it? Because I’m tired of feeling like I am no
    longer living life. Do you understand? I am a suburban robot like, oh, what is
    that movie? Ah yes, Stepford Housewives. I am a suburban robot like them only
    not quite as perfect.

    This was a really fun exercise for myself. I really enjoyed
    the opportunity of tuning into my character and really getting to know who she
    is.

    Reply
  10. 1st Position

    when writing a story should you plan for how the story goes or just let it all take place? and also what’s the best way to start a story?

    Reply
  11. Kastra Kennedy

    Really helpful Joe. I have loads of ideas in my head, but I often lack the focus to get them down on paper. Your prompt list gave me that focus. Thanks!

    “Let me ask you some basic questions, I don’t want you to think too hard
    about your answers, just say what you feel without thinking about it”. I rolled my eyes and began fidgeting with a loose thread from my sleeve. How was this going to be helpful? I tugged the thread a little too hard and the seam began to unravel. I looked up and found the psychiatrists sharp blue
    eyes still focused on me, probably waiting on a response.
    “okay” I shrugged in answer.

    What do you value most in life?
    “Peace and space. When I am around people for too long, I can feel suffocated. I need my space and some alone time to re-charge. I really don’t think I could cope with life without that re-charge time”. Images of my surf board and the beach flit through my mind. I could hear
    the negativity in my voice, but what the hell, she said not to think about my answers so…

    What do you want?
    “I want to know where I fit in to things, who I am. I want to find out who my parents were, why
    they chose not to raise me”.

    What are you afraid of?
    “Not mattering. I want to feel a connection to someone, I want to feel like I belong
    somewhere and I want to be able to make a difference”. Was that defiance in my voice?

    What do you do?
    “Nothing useful, or at least that’s how it feels just now”. I begin trying to knot the
    loose thread to prevent the seam of my sleeve from coming apart any further,
    maybe I could sew it up later. ” I have a good degree in computing and I.T”, I begin explaining without looking up. ” But I have never used it for any kind of job. I volunteer with the local police
    force as a special constable. I thought that would help to give me a sense of purpose, but somehow I just feel like I have been hiding”.

    What do you need?
    “I need a grounding to start from. I need the first piece of the puzzle to fit into place so that I can begin to piece my life together and find out who I really am. I don’t think I can begin to
    find purpose in my life until I know who I really am”. I look up finally, hoping for understanding. Instead she looks down and continues taking more notes silently. I know it, I knew
    it before I came here really. The uncomfortable reality is that I’m going to have to fix this mess for
    myself. No one is going to help me unless I start helping myself.

    Reply
  12. Desirée Mena

    What do you value most in life?
    My computer, and animals. My computer because internet, and it contains the most of my art; and animals, because people suck. Animals, upon observation, can teach you a lot about how the world works. People say we’re the most evolved animal, but I call bullshit. Only a select few individuals kinda not suck, of course, which are my best friend, my sister and my mom.

    What do you want?
    I want to become an astrophysicist, and get rich out of it. I mean yeah, my parents are fairly wealthy, but I want to create my own wealth. Besides, when all you know is comfortable life, you don’t wanna live otherwise. And while I do love art, I also know it’s impossible to become rich out of it, unless you’re unbelievably lucky. While I’m aware that scientists don’t necessarily become rich, I still think it’s more realistic than do it by doodling when I’m blue.

    What are you afraid of?
    Please don’t tell anyone I said anything, but here goes nothing: I fear my dad getting caught using church money to sustain our rather fancy lifestyle, and I really don’t wanna lose it. It’s like, the only thing that doesn’t suck about living in here. And he would lose his freedom, which would suck, too. That, and butterflies. God, I hate those things and their flippy huge wings. They’re the grossest thing I have felt.

    What do you do?
    I study in a big private school, in which I’m quite popular. No, I’m not very social, but I am known in the underground because I have access to real nice drugs (don’t tell my sister). I   read, try to understand, and solve questions and formulas about physics.  And like I said, I  draw when I’m sad, which is pretty often.

    What do you need?
    I need Spongebob and LSD. You should try it someday, it’s fun, but there’s not much I need. I have it all: wealth, health, a loving family, and good friends. All I want is to understand why I’m so sad all the time. Does that make me a spoiled brat?

    Maybe leaning my head against your shoulder wouldn’t be bad right now. May I?

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Say Yes to Practice

Join over 450,000 readers who are saying YES to practice. You’ll also get a free copy of our eBook 14 Prompts:

Popular Resources

Books By Our Writers

Box of Shards
- K.M. Hotzel
Surviving Death
- Sarah Gribble
25
Share to...