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Characterization is a huge part of writing, no matter how long the story. You need to know the ins and outs of your character’s personality. What makes them tick? What do they want? Where to do they come from?

Writing Prompt: Use Junk Drawers to Discover Your Characters

Sometimes it’s a little difficult to come up with new character traits and idiosyncrasies that aren’t cliché or contrived.

Today, we’re going to have a little fun with character development. We’re going to think outside the box of character questionnaires and try a writing prompt to help us discover our characters through a different route: What’s in their junk drawer?

Why junk drawers are treasure troves

I’m sure you’ve seen Sherlockian police procedurals where the detective finds some mundane thing lying in a drawer that ultimately ends up being a vital clue to the mystery.

I bet in your own drawers you’ve got random detritus from your life. Concert ticket stubs. Cords from the Blackberry you owned when Blackberries were cool. Notes to yourself or from friends. An old dog collar from a pet who passed away.

Junk drawers collect mostly forgotten things from our lives. Those things we don’t want to part with, but there’s not really another place to put them. Or things we could stand to part with, but threw in a drawer in a frenzy to clean up before the in-laws show up!

Junk drawers are kind of like time capsules for our lives. And they can be for your character as well.

Writing Prompt: Go through your character’s drawers

Ready to dig through your character’s junk drawer? Here’s how.

First, choose one of the drawers below OR make up your own.

  • Drawer #1: An Eminem concert ticket from 2001 (in Australia); a broken picture frame; a Slinky; a passport; a purple heart medal
  • Drawer #2: At least 30 pens (half have ink, half are dried up); a worn business card from a psychic; a small book of prayers; small jar full of sand and mini shells; a pressed bouquet
  • Drawer #3: 6 tea candles; a box of sidewalk chalk; 3 baby teeth in a plastic baggy; a picture of a young couple kissing; a masquerade mask (crumpled and torn)

Now imagine the person that would keep such a drawer. What do the contents say about them? What kind of life have they lived? What kind of person are they now?

What’s something in your junk drawer that would provide a vital clue to who you are? Let me know in the comments!

PRACTICE

Choose one of the drawers above or make up your own drawer contents. (If you make up your own, make sure to list the contents in the comments!) Take fifteen minutes to write about the character that owns that drawer.

Don’t forget to share your work in the comments and give feedback to your fellow writers!

Sarah Gribble
Sarah Gribble
Sarah Gribble is the best-selling author of dozens of short stories that explore uncomfortable situations, basic fears, and the general awe and fascination of the unknown. She’s currently cooking up more ways to freak you out and working on a novel.

Follow her @sarahstypos or join her email list for free scares at https://sarah-gribble.com.
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