Daniel Ehrenhaft is the author of several books for children and young adults, such The Last Dog on Earth and 10 Things To Do Before I Die. He has written so many books, in fact, that he has lost count. Daniel writes because he loves to read, and he aspires to do for young readers what his favorite authors did for him. If he had it his way, he’d get paid to read. But he has other hobbies too, such as traveling the globe on a doomed mission to achieve rock stardom. When he’s not doing that, he lives in Brooklyn with his wife and 10-year-old son.
If you love to read as much as I do, then you probably also share an irrational love of writing. If you’re invested enough to work on your own fiction, then as far as I’m concerned you are worthy of respect. For that reason, I tried to avoid clichés prompts so that you can take your writing to the next level. (You know: “Imagine your day, but if you were an alien!”)
Sometimes when you’re stuck in a story, it can be helpful to get a new perspective or new ideas by doing a short activity based on your characters. The below are consonant with my novels The Last Dog on Earth and 10 Things To Do Before I Die in that they involve characters who feel misunderstood.
Choose a piece of writing you’ve already drafted. It could be a section of a longer story or just a short scene. Then, use one of the prompts below to understand your characters better and get deeper into your piece. Maybe it’ll take you in a direction you didn’t expect and a side character will become more important. Or maybe you’ll use what you learn through the activity to help you revise.
Pick a key moment of epiphany or realization for your main character and rewrite it from the point of view of an unimportant side character. How might a less important character perceive the realization? What do you learn about your main character (and their epiphany) through this new perspective?
Swap the ages of two characters and rewrite a scene between them. How do their ages change the way they interact with each other? Do you learn anything new about the scene or the characters when you switch their ages?
Most writers (and readers!) would agree that conflict is often what makes us learn about a character and keeps a story moving. Sometimes we end up making our protagonist deal with a terrible situation for the sake of the tale. Write a letter to your main character, apologizing for something you put them through in your story. How did that conflict help your piece?
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