Discover Who Your Character Is With This Quirky Writing Prompt

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There are several ways to reveal who your character is in a story: through how they dress, their posture, and through what they value. But the best way to determine who your character is is through their actions. And a fun way to observe their actions is through a writing prompt.

Discover Who Your Character Is With This Quirky Writing Prompt

In a writing workshop I teach on the first Sunday of the month, I gave everyone in the class a writing prompt: put the character from their stories through The Starbucks Character Test to see how they would respond.

Your protagonist might weigh three hundred pounds, dress in black leather, and ride a Harley Davidson motorcycle; however, that just shows their exterior character. Maybe they are timid and hide behind the leather and facade of being tough. Maybe they avoid conflict and won't say anything in The Starbucks Character Test. 

Think about the protagonist in your story, imagine what they are wearing, where they are going, what kind of car or vehicle they drive, and put them in line at Starbucks or another busy coffee shop.

Writing Prompt: The Starbucks Character Test

Your character, perhaps the protagonist in your story, is in line at Starbucks or another coffee shop. Just as they approach the counter to order their drink, another customer cuts in front of them and starts to order.

How will your character respond? Will they push the intruding customer aside and insist that they are next? Will they be passive and let the rude customer order before them? Will they scratch out the eyes of the person cutting in line? Will the story play out like a horror story or like a romance novel?

Discover Your Character's Values

When I placed the protagonist in my story in line at Starbucks, I realized I didn't know her very well. I wasn't sure how she would respond.

Thinking about how my character would respond to a rude customer helped me clarify her values. In the beginning of my story she would be passive and not say anything, but by the end of my story, as she changes through a personal crisis, she would respond differently, and she would have pushed the rude customer aside.

Character is revealed by action.

How would your protagonist respond in The Starbucks Character Test?

What actions have characters taken in your stories that reveal who they are? Let us know in the comments.

PRACTICE

Here's your writing prompt: imagine a character from your story in line at Starbucks. As they approach the counter to order a drink, another customer cuts in front of them and starts to place their order. Write for fifteen minutes about how your character would respond in The Starbucks Character Test.

How will your character respond?

And while they are in line ordering will you please get me a half-decaf, Grande latte with extra foam?

When your time is up, share your scene! Write Practice Pro community members can post here in the practice workshop and give feedback to a few other writers. Want to see how regular practice with a group of supportive writers can help your process? Check out the options for joining us here.

Pamela writes stories about art and creativity to help you become the artist you were meant to be. She would love to meet you at pamelahodges.com.

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40 Comments

  1. James Wright

    LMHO, The character I’m writing about actually does ride a Harley Davidson Lol. Great article of prompts.

    Reply
    • Pamela Hodges

      Hey James,
      Does your character drink coffee?

      Reply
  2. Julie Mayerson Brown

    Clever way to learn about a character! On my way to Starbucks now 🙂

    Reply
    • Sara Raynott

      This made me crave coffee too 🙂 Had to pour myself before writing.

      Reply
    • Pamela Hodges

      Hi Julie,
      What did you order at Starbucks?
      I am craving a latte today.
      xo
      Pamela

      Reply
  3. Azure Darkness Yugi

    I’m going to use four characters in a fanfic I’m writing. They’re clones, but each has their own personality. So their response to the rude costumer will be, one will just pull the person back in line, the second will just kill them, third will politely ask them go back in line, and the forth doesn’t care.

    Reply
    • Pamela Hodges

      Hi Azure,
      Sounds like you have a clear understanding of the character of each clone. I will make sure I never cut in front of clone #2.

      Reply
  4. Member of the Tribe

    Nice article. The characters I’m writing about right now are kids most of them would say something. Except the main character. He’d probably get in his head about what happened and be mad internally.

    Reply
    • Sara Raynott

      I was thinking the same thing and wrote a kid in mine! Great minds think alike 🙂

      Reply
    • Pamela Hodges

      Hi Member of the Tribe,
      Thank you for stopping by to read the article.
      Hope you are well. How is the story going with the kids?

      Reply
      • Member of the Tribe

        It’s going well actually. Thanks for asking. I’m probably 80% done with the first draft. I’m hoping people will feel the way about the characters that I do. Won’t know until I send it to some beta readers

        Reply
  5. Sara Raynott

    Fun! I’ve wanted to do a writing prompt activity for a while. Here goes…

    I feel the soft, small hand of my daughter slip into my palm and look down at her, giving her hand a squeeze. She is smiling up at me with excitement in her eyes.
    Heading to this Starbucks is an annual tradition for us. Each year, we visit my mother. My father cut me out of his seven years ago when I got pregnant. My mother tried to be supportive, but arguing with my father about it was straining their marriage.

    At 17, I had wanted my mother to fight harder for me. I had wanted her full support and thought she could be strong enough to keep both me and my father in her life. She hadn’t been strong enough. Instead, she had given me three thousand dollars behind my father’s back with a promise to meet me once a year and sent me away.

    Each year, I drove to meet my mother at a Starbucks halfway between the cities we lived in. She didn’t even have to lie to my father about where she was going since she took an annual vacation with friends at a spa. This Starbucks was the perfect stopping place for her to meet me before her trip.

    The Starbucks visit usually lasted three hours. The store employees never minded us sitting there that long. To me, it wasn’t long enough. I missed my mother fiercely, but I had to take what I could get. Every year, she offered me more money. I took it on the first visit, but declined all the offers after that.

    Jenny, my daughter, loved these visits. She had grown to love my mother, even though they visited each other for less than a total of 20 hours combined. My mother always brought her a present. Jenny loved presents, but I knew she was more excited about seeing my mother again.

    As we approached the counter, I opened my mouth to order Jenny’s hot chocolate and my coffee. Before I could speak, an older man cut straight in front of me and started to order. My eyes widened in surprise and I felt my jaw drop. How incredibly rude!

    Normally, I would say something, but I didn’t want to cause a scene right before I was expecting my mother. I didn’t want to waste any of our time together arguing with a stranger.

    Jenny tugged my hand, “We were next, Mommy.”
    “I know,” I said quietly. “We can wait.”
    “But, that’s not fair. We were here first.” I saw the tears begin to form in Jenny’s eyes. She cried at anything she felt was unfair. It was a habit I was trying to break her of.
    “It’s okay, baby. We’ll be here for a while and he,” I pointed at the man’s back, “seems to be in a hurry. It was rude of him, but we can wait since we are nice people.”

    I didn’t try to lower my voice when I said it. Seeing my little girl cry when hurt by others brought out the worst in me and I wanted this man to know how I felt.
    “He’s not nice. He better not get the last Hot Chocolate.” Jenny’s tiny hands curled into fists. Where did she get this angry streak?
    “He won’t. If he does, I’ll take it from him.” I winked down at Jenny and she laughed. I smiled to myself. Situation defused!
    Hearing my threat, the man turned to give me an angry look. His face morphed into shocked recognition when he saw me. It was my father.

    Reply
    • Sara Raynott

      I know I didn’t really write what the prompt was asking, I got carried away with the backstory. But, this was fun.

      Reply
      • Oihane Garcia

        I love the story! it is really creative. thanks for sharing.

        Reply
          • Pamela Hodges

            Sara,
            I felt like I was standing in line with you and your daughter. The last sentence was so powerful. “It was my father.”
            A complete story, beginning hook, middle build, and end.
            Boy, I am so curious to know what happened next. You answered so many questions about your dad. You showed what he was really like, without telling us. He cuts in line in front of a mother and child.
            Thank you for writing a story with the prompt.
            xo
            Pamela

          • Sara Raynott

            Pamela, thank you so much. I had a lot of fun with this prompt and the characters took me on a great little ride. I really appreciate your feedback!

  6. TerriblyTerrific

    Thank you for the helpful article.

    Reply
    • Pamela Hodges

      Hi Terribly Terrific,
      You are very welcome.

      Reply
  7. Shadowbunny

    I am a real beginner. Just working on writing for stress relief…

    She ran her fingers through her slightly damp hair, and just knew it was going to be a frizzy mess in about twenty minutes. Laura looked around the dim, hipster interior of her favorite Starbucks. Inhaling the calming scents, she tried to calm her inner turmoil. It had been a rough six months.

    The man in front of her finished his order and stepped aside. Just as she began to step to the left and start her order, a form stepped in front of her. It was a lady, huffing a bit with short breath who said, “I’m in a hurry. I’m going to order, ok? I’ll take a skinny, vanilla latte no whip with a shot of caramel.”

    The barista looked at Laura with a bewildered expression like, what do you want me to do? Stepping back slightly with a wry smile, Laura just shrugged. Par for the course, she thought with another, this time inner, shrug.

    When Ms. Rudeness finally stepped out of her way, Laura gave a slight smile to the barista. “Good morning, I’ll take a tall blonde roast with mocha and room for cream please. I’d also like a half-caf, grande latte with extra foam. Thanks.”

    Completing her order, she pulled out her debit card and stuck it in the chip reader. When the transaction finished, she took it and slipped the card back into her wallet. Laura looked for an empty table near a power supply.

    Finding two, she steered clear of the one near her line cutting acquaintance. She pulled out the chair, and set her black leather backpack on the table. Unzipping the laptop pouch she pulled out her MacBook and power supply and set them on top of the table.

    She glanced at the door and then the counter to check on the status of her order, but the morning rush had things a little backed up.

    Reply
    • Susan W A

      I enjoyed this! I could feel the essence of Laura.

      ( … made me smile that Laura ordered coffee for Pamela, too!)

      Reply
    • Alyssa Robbins

      I can actually visualize this scene in my mind! Excellent work.

      Reply
    • Pamela Hodges

      Hi Shadowbunny,
      Thank you for getting Laura to order me a coffee. I am very grateful.
      Your story gave hints of Laura’s life, and a few nice details about who she is. You showed rather than told. We know she went out with wet hair, and we know something is going on in her life.

      Reply
  8. Chinazom Bernadine Okagbue

    It had snowed on my fifth night in Colorado. The dry ground which I had met the previous day, was a sand of of snow. I struggled to come out of bed. The weather was cold and biting. ”You have to go out with me today, that will be a way for you to start getting used to the place, Chima my brother said. The sweater I had come with was far from being able to brace this weather. ”My brother gave me his black leather jacket. Though it was not my size, it served its purpose of protecting me against the cold, but I tried to zip it up, the zip could not go further up. “You will be fine”, my brother laughed. He was off from work that day and had some errands to do. I will take you to a coffee shop where I usually buy coffee on days like this. This will help you”. It was my first time at Starbucks. There were just three people ahead of me. I stood behind a tall blonde lady. A young man of about 18 years with braided hair and a long moustache stood behind me. The moustache had been weaved into a pony tail and decorated with a ribbon at the end. We exchanged glances when I looked behind but we never spoke.
    “Can I help you?” the lady at the counter asked.
    ” I whispered. But the cashier did not hear. She took his order and proceeded to get the young man his cup of coffee .”
    “Sorry, I moved closer to the young man,I was here before you, you know”.
    He looked at me for sometIme and looked away. Was he deaf? I wondered, so as the cashier brought his order, I stretched my hand, took the cup of coffee or whatever it was that he ordered and walked out.

    Reply
    • Alyssa Robbins

      Excellent details! I enjoyed your story.

      Reply
    • drjeane

      I love this solution to a difficult situation.

      Reply
    • Pamela Hodges

      Hello Chinazom,
      Thank you for writing a story to the writing prompt. Did you find it helped you know your character better?
      I felt like I was in the coffee shop with her, and I could feel the cold.

      Reply
  9. S.M. Sierra

    This is great, my characters are from the Magical Realm and I was about to send them on a journey into the Mortal world (Our world). Well your prompt made me think of how they will survive, even though they are Magical beings and the main character (Molly Blue) is familiar with the mortal world, I must come up with a plausible way for them to acquire money for things such as Star Bucks and food, since they cannot magic things out of thin air.
    ****
    “Everyone seems to like that place,” Mariel says as she points to a line of people.
    Molly reads the sign aloud, “Starbucks…I”m not so sure you’ll like coffee, heck I don’t know if I’ll like coffee. Nanny Shell used to drink it at Nurture home, it smelled good, she put sugar and lots of cream in it.”
    “It’s hot, and I’m cold,” Sean Henri says, rushes forwards, and the others follow him to join the queue.
    “Ooh they have tea as well,” Samanda says as they peruse the menu.
    Since Molly knows how Mortal currency works she approaches the counter with their selections rolling in her mind and the cashier asking, “How may I help you.”
    She Points at the muffins in an effort to get a visual of all the pastries the others want when a man scoots in front of her saying, “I just want a tall Espresso Macchiato.”
    “Whoa, hold on, I was next,” Molly says with her hand reaching for her wand.
    “Yeah, but I heard you and your friends talking and I cannot wait for you to order for twelve people, ” he huffs out a laugh and turns his attention to the cashier, “I’m in a hurry so…” he trails off waiting for her to fulfill his request.
    Molly nudges past him saying, “You would’ve had to wait if we each ordered separately so your reasoning for cutting the queue is invalid,” she relaxes her grip on her wand and points to the blueberry scones to begin her order.

    Reply
  10. Robert Allen

    My character wouldn’t be in Starbucks, but line cutting would get a reaction. An even bigger reaction if my character isn’t the first in line, and the person there submits.

    Reply
    • Pamela Hodges

      Hey Robert,
      It sounds like you know your character very well. I keep finding out more about mine as I continue to write the story.

      Reply
  11. Barbara Neville Johnson

    Fortunately I’ve never been to a Starbucks, but my protagonist packs. Unless someone talks her out of it. The line cutter gets cut down. Lol

    Reply
    • Pamela Hodges

      Hi Barbara,
      I love that your protagonist packs. I will be sure to never cut in line in front of her. 🙂

      Reply
      • Barbara Neville Johnson

        Definitely prudent. Cheers!

        Reply
  12. Alyssa Robbins

    Shane glanced at his watch anxiously as he listened to the customer ahead of him indecisively place her order.
    I’m going to be late for my date! Shane thought.
    The line of customers behind Shane grew longer just as he began to grow more impatient. After several minutes, the customer decided on a small black coffee. Shane breathed a sigh of relief as the customer exited the checkout. As he approached the counter to place his order, a woman rushed in front of him.
    “Could I please have a grande caramel macchiato with extra espresso?” the woman asked the barista.
    “Hey! I was next in line!” yelled Shane.
    The woman turned around to face Shane.
    Shane’s anger turned to lust as he gazed into the woman’s dark brown eyes.
    “Sorry,” said the woman. “I’m in a hurry.”
    “Oh I can see that,” Shane teased.
    The woman shed a nervous smile as she bashfully turned away from Shane. Shane stood patiently behind the woman, enjoying every view of her curvaceous frame. He stepped closer to the counter next to the woman.
    “You’re lucky Xiomara,” Shane whispered. “Only a woman as beautiful as you would be able to steal my place in line.”
    “How do you know my name?” asked the woman.
    Shane pointed to the cup on the counter with the name Xiomara written on it. Xiomara blushed as Shane continued to glare at her.
    “I’m sorry again for rushing in front of you.”
    “Everything happens for a reason Ms. Xiomara,” Shane replied.
    “What reason is that?” Xiomara asked, as she sensuously placed her hands on her hips.
    Shane licked his lips, as he erased the guilt of standing up the woman who was waiting for her date with him from his mind.

    Reply
    • Pamela Hodges

      Alyssa,
      It sounds like your Starbucks story is a romance. I wonder if Xiomara is really her name? I always give my name as Alice when I order coffee. The Starbucks by my house greets me now, “Hi Alice.”
      Thank you for writing a story with the prompt.

      Reply
  13. Jamie Sullivan

    The last customer ordered and moved to the side, leaving an empty space between Mark and the counter. He’d been so focused on imagining what the waitress’s body would look like without her skin tight top on that he never heard the call of ‘next!’

    After a moment of awkward silence she stepped to the side to hide her upper torso region behind a glass cabinet displaying a range of unhealthy snacks. Without thinking, Mark followed her body and found himself staring at a delicious caramel slice. It tempted him until he read its seven dollar-fifty price tag.

    He let an obvious sigh of disagreement and rolled his eyes but the look he got from the waitress said she couldn’t care less about what Mark thought. Her intolerance of him was set in stone and not even his smoothest smile could lighten her mode. The only change he got was narrow eyes and thinner lips.

    ‘Let her stew,’ Mark thought, ‘I wasn’t perving. I was just looking for a name badge.’

    Mark went to take one large stride to the counter when a walking mass of coats blocked his path. An old man, rugged up with his knee-length, woollen trench coat and knitted scarf stepping in front of him and began to order his coffee without making the slightest inclination the Mark even existed.

    Before the word passed through his mind and was speaking it, “Hey!”

    The old man slowly turned his body, so old and damaged from time that it remained in one stiff position as he turned to look back at Mark. Between a grey flat cap and a nose riddled with broken capillaries, faded grey eyes gave him a dismissive glance before the he man turned back and continued his order.

    Mark’s temper took over. “One flat white with two sugars, oh, and a pink marshmallow on the side, thanks.”  

    The stunned waitress gaped at him with an open mouth. Only her eyes moved, from Mark to the register to the old man lying on the ground. Mark gave her his smoothest smile again but she read the crazy in his eyes and pressed his order into the register.

    He walked out of Starbucks sipping of his coffee. “Arh, nothing like a free coffee to freshen up your morning!”

     

    Reply
    • Pamela Hodges

      Hey Jamie,
      Sounds like your protagonist, Mark, doesn’t like being cut in front of. I wonder if Mark has a Starbucks card to earn points, so he gets free drinks?
      Thank you for writing a story with the prompt.

      Reply
  14. Oihane Garcia

    This was fun! i’m still new to writing so apologies in advance if it is hard reading haha.
    thank you writers/readers and ofcourse Pamela xoxo

    Sarah was waiting in line, as usual, in her favourite coffeeshop.She comes her often to write or come up with ideas while drinking her favourite cup. Holding her wallet and keys in one hand and a notebook and pen in the other. While waiting she was listening to the conversation that was going on next to her, a couple of girls about the same age as her, talking about guys at work. ‘Next!’ she hears from behind the counter so she opens her mouth to make the order, but suddenly a guy who just came rushing in takes place in front of her and makes his order. Sarah takes a confident step forward right next to him. ‘And an Caramel macchiato for me please’ she says to the waiter. The guy looks aside all confused. ‘Well I was waiting in line long before you entered, so you could at least order for me too right?’ Sarah explains nicely to the still confused guy. ‘ I’m so sorry! I didn’t even notice, I thought you where talking with your friends still in line’ he replied ‘Let me get it for you. ‘Names please?’ the waiter asks. ‘William and ehhh’ the guy answers ‘My name is Sarah’ she continues. ‘So why all the rush?’ Sarah asks William. ‘Actually i’m not even in a rush’ William responds while laughing out loud. ‘So that makes you just rude’ Sarah anwers laughing now with him. Sarah and William continued the conversation while waiting. ‘What are you writing, don’t mind me asking? Since we now are getting nicely along’ William smiles and points out to the notebook Sarah is holding. ‘oh this, well, it’s nothing.. just, you know, doodling words’ Sarah responds all shy. ‘Here are your coffees mister Rush and miss Patience’ the waiter yells verly loudly for everyone to hear. William and Sarah start laughing real hard and walk over to the counter to get their coffee. ‘So while your such a miss Patience.. can you open your notebook for me on a blank page for a sec?’ William asks in an now weird accent. Sarah does what he asks and hands the notebook over to him. ‘I had a really nice conversation with you’ He says to her while writing her a little message. He closes the notebook and hands it back over to her. ‘I have to go now, nice to meet you miss Sarah Patience’ William says while leaving. ‘Goodbye William Rush, nice to meet you too’ Sarah walks over to the sofa in front of the little fireplace they put down in the corner, she folds down her flowerly dress, while she takes a seat. She sips of her coffee and opens her notebook in front of her.

    Reply
  15. Saren

    My character, named Evangeline, would be a mixture of irritated, confused, and frightened. She does not like being mistreated but isn’t the kind of person to take action against it. So, I can see her tapping the person on the shoulder and telling them what they did wrong. If the person does nothing about it or ignores her, she will give up and just take it.

    A very interesting character for me since I usually write about women who are headstrong, stubborn, and overly opinionated. So, this is new for me 🙂

    Reply

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