By Kris Maze
Writing a novel can be daunting and writers can get stuck on that first draft. Why not liven up your writing by taking your characters on a Road Trip this summer? By now you may have enjoyed summer plans yourself. Don’t forget to take along your characters, too. If you are having trouble making your characters come alive, giving them a vacation just may do the trick. In this post, you will find 30 writing prompts to help you imagine the characters of your current Work in Progress (WIP) and how they would react.
You may wonder whether spending time on writing prompts is worth your limited Write Time and energy. Wouldn’t writing more on the novel be more productive? Perhaps. But digging deep into what your characters would do in situations outside your book setting can illuminate their actions in your novel.
How these prompts can add life to your current writing project:
- Add depth to existing characters by learning how they react in a variety of unexpected situations.
- Form interesting details or side stories the enhance your novel.
- Flesh out the motivation and psychological profile of your characters as they react and share feelings in a variety of scenarios.
- Create smaller pieces of writing that can be used in your Author Business. Think about how you can use what you create while road tripping with your characters.
- Have a character take over your newsletter and share what they did this summer.
- Add pictures and vignettes to social media posts.
- Create teasers for book promotion
- Make these into short stories to use as author giveaways.
- Add interesting talking points for doing author talks and promotion events.
- Use the side stories in blog posts or your author website.
Try a few of these writing prompts and see whether it makes a difference in your Work in Progress!
WIP Writing Prompts–Summer Edition
The Gas Station
- Fuel Dilemma. Your characters are about to go through the deserts of Nevada and are nearly out of gas. Alas, they are in Oregon where they cannot pump their own fuel and the nearest gas station for 300 miles is closed. Write how each of your characters feels at that moment. what conversation do they have and what do they do next?
- Endless Flavor. At a gas station, your characters find a fountain drink machine with ENDLESS FLAVORS and a sign encouraging them to experiment with mixing them together. What would your characters each make?
- Maintenance Required. Their car breaks down in a remote town and the only mechanic around is a reliable, elderly woman. Write a conversation between your characters and the mechanic describing what happened to the car and how they will fix it.
- Tire Jack. A tire explodes while driving down Route 66. How a person reacts to this unexpected event can reveal a ton about your WIP’s characters. Describe changing a tire in this scene and demonstrate what each character feels with actions only.
- Pick your Shotgun Buddy. Your Main Character gets to choose a handful of people to take on this road trip. Who do they pick and describe why they make the cut?
- Radio Roulette. Spin the analogue or digital dial and describe what music becomes stuck while your characters are driving in the car. Imagine they have to listen to this type of music (or perhaps just one annoying song?) for the entire trip. How do your characters act and what actions to they take as a result?
- Potty Breaks! How does your driver in this scenario feel about stopping for the bathroom? Describe a scene about inconveniences and play on their conflict of interests.
- Souvenirs. Are these mementos treasured nostalgic reminders of places they’ve been, or clutter-producing junk? Which unlikely place do your characters buy souvenirs? Who do they buy them for and what is their motivation? Is it a joke or sentimental gift? Serious or sarcastic?
- Geo Cache. One of your characters likes treasure hunts and stumbles across a Geo Cache. They each leave a note and a gift that represents them.
- Expired? Your characters browse the gas station for snacks and find an item of historical significance randomly on the shelf. What is the item and what do your characters do with it? What happens to them as a result?
The Great Outdoors
- Camping Chores. Your characters are camping. Some are excited about being in nature, but some loathe the experience. Assign each of your characters a camping duty and describe the scene, using some dialogue and actions to show how they feel about each job. Use some of these common camping tasks or create your own.
- Setting up a tent
- Starting a campfire
- Planning a hike
- Packing the car,
- Mosquitos! Your camp is overrun by tiny insects! Ants nibble away your characters’ food supplies, tics burrow into their flesh, and various winged insects constantly bite at them. How do your clever characters handle the bug situation without using insecticides or renting a hotel room?
- Burn Ban. Your characters want to hold a bonfire, but cannot. They are allowed to float candles in a metal tub of water instead. How do each of your characters react to the candlelight version of this camping classic?
- Camp Food. What does each character bring to eat? Does it fit the camping motif? How do they eat it (or not depending on whether they prepared appropriately)? How does each character like their experience?
- Nature. Pick a natural structure for your group to visit. A waterfall, geyser, mountain peak or cave structure. Perhaps a flower-filled meadow is their cup of tea. Take us on a sensory walk as you describe what they see and hear. What scents and temperatures do they experience? How does their visit make them feel?
- Backpack. What does each character take along for a day trip? Are they adequately prepared? Or do they bring items that don’t make sense? Pick things each character would logically have and include it in a scene that reveals their items.
- Unexpected Visitor. It’s late in the night and something goes BUMP in the dark. Who, or what, is it and how do your characters react?
- Camp Songs. Each character is asked to share a song. What song does each character pick? Why does it fit their personality and background? Show this in a scene.
- Snoring. Someone in the camp is sawing logs at midnight and keeping everyone else awake. Which of your characters is it? How do the others handle the disturbance?
- Trying Something New. Each character has to go outside their comfort zone during this trip. What activity does each character try? Are they successful? What do they learn or feel as a result?
- Sandy Toes. Do your characters love the feel of sand on their feet or despise the dirty stickiness of the entire experience? Describe how each feels, giving them a reason they have to spend the day at the beach, regardless of whether they love or hate it.
- Wedding Bells. Two of your characters are suddenly getting hitched, and the beach is the best venue. Who’s tying the knot and what made the beach their go-to venue? Who attends and who officiates? Write a scene and include these details.
- Sun or Shade. Which do your characters prefer and why? Make a scene and include the cabanas or beach towels on the wide-open sands.
- Suits. Does your character like a 2-piece or prefer to stick to the literal suit and tie? Describe each character’s outfits on their sandy retreat.
- Snacks and Refreshments. Part of any good beach day is not having to go far for a bit to eat. What do your characters pack in their cooler? What do they nosh on and what are their preferred beverages?
- Water Bodies. Where do your characters prefer to go? A bubbling brook or deep mountain lake? A weedy, secluded pond or the wild, wavy ocean? Which body of water do each of your characters prefer and how does it reflect their personality?
- Sunset or Sunrise? What does your character prefer? When faced with a choice, when does your group meet for an event, and why? Write a scene where they are all together at one.
- Vendors. A random vendor passes your characters and offers them their goods. This vendor does not sell typical popsicles and bottles of pop. What do they sell and what are your characters willing to purchase?
- First Aid. One of your characters gets hurt. What happened and to which character? Is the cause a 3rd degree sunburn caused by an ill planned nap? A jellyfish sting or worse shark attack? Does someone twist an ankle during beach volleyball? Who is the first to respond and how do your characters react? Write a scene around this event.
- Picnic. A benevolent stranger leaves a basket of goodies. It is filled with activities for each character to play. What is in the basket for each character and how do they respond?
That is enough fun and games for this edition of Character Vacations, dear writer friends. I hope you are relaxing and reveling in wordsmith adventures this summer.
If you want to challenge yourself this September to dig deep into your writing process, check out my time management and writing productivity classes. This three-class series is half-off on my website (listed under Productivity Coaching) and we're going to have an amazing time.
Do you use writing prompts? When do you turn to them and which do you find the most helpful? What helps you get more vitality into your Works in Progress? We'd love to hear all about it down in the comments!
* * * * * *
Kris Maze has worked in education for 25 years and writes for various publications including Practical Advice for Teachers of Heritage Learners of Spanish and award-winning blog Writers in the Storm where she is also a host. You can find her brief horror stories and keep up with her author events at her website.
A recovering grammarian and hopeless wanderer, Kris enjoys reading, playing violin and piano, and spending time outdoors with her family. She also ponders the wisdom of Bob Ross.
Interested in organizing your writing life?
Do you want help examining your priorities and scheduling your writing projects? The online-live 3-class series, Productivity Coaching with Kris, begins September 2021.
During this series, we will refine your writing priorities and create a strategy for achieving a more satisfying flow in your author life. Sign up any time in August to get 50% off this course! Find more information here or contact Kris Maze through her website.
Interested in quick reads?
The first 3 episodes for two of Kris' dystopian YA books are available now on Kindle Vella!
Aurora and Watertown: Aurora, a fishermen's daughter, struggles after causing an accident that harmed her brother. When her father leaves, Aurora's ostentatious rich aunt stays with her. But who is watching over whom? While running their fish shop, Aurora discovers clues to a hidden mythical substance that could change her fate, heal her dying brother, and restore the future of their wharf town. She must find it before the Shipping Merchant's heir, Oden, who follows her for unknown reasons.
Athena and the Apocolypse: Achieving Broadcasting Greatness is a difficult feat, especially when your metropolis is about to be destroyed by an asteroid called The Horsemen. Follow Athena, AKA Downtown Girl, as she navigates the story of a lifetime, discovers a Secret Food Revolution, and evades entrapment by the mad scientist leading it. As she investigates, using all the cunning talents she can muster, she discovers the keys to her mysterious past, and perhaps open portals a better future.