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.
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.
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.