Writing Prompt Story Starter: From The Outside In


Shutterstock / Alex_mood ©

How do you begin to build a character for a story? There’s no right or wrong way. You can start with a situation or event and write your main characters around that, or perhaps you start with a definite person and create the story around them.

Props can definitely help. Take the woman in our image above. The first word that springs to mind is “journey”. Is she going far? Is she changing jobs? Escaping? Is her case filled with all she owns or a few things for a short break?

Her case looks well worn. Is it a family item? Has she bought it second-hand or did she get it in pawn shop? Sometimes it’s one little thing that can spark the story and detail that lets you create a main character. Depending on what sort of mood you’re in it can be easier to build a person from the outside in. Dress them first then let your imagination take over.

Close your eyes!

A great tip is to imagine someone holding an item. Then imagine them in a location. It can be interior or exterior . . . then close your eyes. Concentrate on each of your senses individually and see what your mind conjures up.

Smells . . . candles burning? Kitchen aromas, horses, flowers or something less pleasant!

Sound . . . talking, screeching, singing, traffic, industry, creaking floorboards?

Touch . . . Cold? Or maybe something soft like a baby’s blanket? A ticket gripped tightly in a hand.

Taste . . . A sweet treat, a strong cup of tea, the bitter taste of medicine?

Sight . . . In your mind’s eye what are you seeing directly in front of you? Open space or a cramped room? Oppulence? Squalor?

All this just by starting with an object. Dress your character and then add the layers of history and personality. Let them come to you and tell their story and take you on their journey.

For more Story Starters, click here.

Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, I have found my perfect place on the “Friend” as I’m obsessed with reading and never go anywhere without a book! I read all of our stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!