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It’s that time of year again. The newness and hope of a fresh start has worn off and if you’re like me, old habits beckon like a warm blanket. Whether you are still holding firm on your resolutions, didn’t make any, or have already abandoned your “new year, new you,” the challenge of resolutions provides a host of ideas for writing. That’s what today’s writing prompt is all about: what resolutions have your characters made, and how will they stick to them?

Writing Prompt: Sabotage a Resolution

Use resolutions to develop characters

Resolutions are great for character development because in an instant they show us several things about the character, including what he wants and what he believes about himself.

For example, let’s take a character who wants to lose ten pounds. Why does he want to lose the weight? Is he vain, trying to recapture his youth or does ten pounds stand between him and a dream job? 

If he believes he can’t do it on his own, he might hire a trainer or join a group fitness class. Maybe he overestimates his ability and joins an advanced functional fitness class that forces him to face the difference between what he thinks he can do versus what he can actually do.

Resolutions love obstacles

After you know what change your character wants to make and why, you can create problems for him. What interesting obstacles can you throw in his path that make him falter in his resolve? 

This is a great opportunity to practice stretching past clichés. Write down the top three reasons people fail at their resolutions, then come up with something fresh. Put your character in a place where they have to make an extremely difficult choice whether or not to keep a resolution.

If our weight-loss hero has cut out all carbohydrates, put him at his boss’s house for dinner where the hostess offers a beautiful slice of cake. What if the boss’s wife bursts into tears? What will he do?

The moment a character wrestles with whether or not to break their resolution is a crisis moment, perfect for a short story or microfiction.

Raise the stakes

What’s at stake? A character who has been told by a doctor to quit a behavior or suffer an early death has a great deal at stake. A nail-biter who has overheard that his crush can’t abide jagged nails suddenly has new motivation to quit.

Give the character a strong reason not to fail. If a character has resolved to quit smoking, and she’s been twenty-one days strong, what situation on day twenty-three will test her resolve?

More importantly, how will she respond when she succeeds or fails? Will she be honest with herself and others? Will she replace smoking with something else?

Add an attack

Sometimes we’re our own worst enemies, but what if someone else is actively trying to sabotage our character’s resolutions? The possibilities abound as you can explore both the protagonist’s motivation for her resolution as well as the antagonist’s reason for attack.

Writing prompt: Character, revealed

Our characters are defined not by their likes and dislikes, not by the clothes they wear nor the foods they eat nor the movies they watch. No: the things that define our characters are the choices they make. And resolutions provide the perfect fodder for revealing choices.

For today’s writing prompt, consider your character’s resolutions. What resolutions has your character chosen for their new year? And what choices will they make to stick to them — or not?

That’s the stuff of great story.

What’s the toughest choice you’ve ever had a character make? Let us know in the comments.

PRACTICE

For today’s writing prompt, create a character and give them a resolution that they have followed religiously for twenty-two days. Now blitz them on day twenty-three and choose conflict that speaks into their weaknesses and fears. How will they respond?

Take fifteeen minutes to write. Share your best ideas in the comments, and be sure to leave feedback for your fellow writers!

Sue Weems
Sue Weems
Sue Weems is a writer, teacher, and traveller with an advanced degree in (mostly fictional) revenge. When she’s not rationalizing her love for parentheses (and dramatic asides), she follows a sailor around the globe with their four children, two dogs, and an impossibly tall stack of books to read. You can read more of her writing tips on her website.
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