Posts Tagged ‘ writer’s block ’

Writing Prompt / Exercise – Character – Writer’s Block #2

driving writing prompt writer's block

We all hate being stuck so here’s another idea for a writing prompt.

I will assume you already have a character in mind here. If you don’t, that’s fine. Think of someone you know or a character who played a very small role in an old or current piece. This is aimed at giving you new inspiration you can either use with that character or rename them and use in a separate story.

To begin with, especially if you’ve not paid much thought to this character, much of their back story is one gaping big hole. Well, I’m going to attempt to get behind their eyes and into their driving seat with this exercise.

What does this character drive? No need for specificity here if, like me, you have little idea of makes, models etc.

Here’s the big questions in my head:

Curvy or square?
Good nick or falling apart?
Rusty or smooth paint work?
Dirty or clean on outside?
Dirty or clean on inside?
How is it so dirty/clean?
What is personal about the objects inside the car?
What do the keys and keychain (if there is one) look like?
Is it their car or shared?
Is there a radio or CD player?
What sort of music is played?
Is it modified? Why &how? (where did money come from etc)
Anything broken/stolen?

These questions (and their answers) will tell you a lot about any character and a lot about what their house might look like, too. If none of these give you any ideas, maybe push to see what their room looks like or how their character traits (like OCD or slob) may bring about a crisis worthy of a story.

I’ll try this out with one of the more minor characters in my WIP: Melissa.
It should get me closer to her motives and shine a light into her character. Maybe, if I’m lucky, it will give me an idea for a new story, too.

Now, her car is…

Yes. She is a top reporter in her field. She makes a lot of money and believes she should show it, put herself above other people not just to look good but to get more answers.

A grey silver. She’s girly but likes understated class in accessories and this way it goes with any outfit. (Clearer sense of her character is coming through here).

Curvy or square?
Curvy. Thinking two seater, too. No children in her family. Possibly single. Too career orientated.

Good nick or falling apart?
Great nick, not far off new. Maybe 1-2 years old. New car – recent promotion or bonus/bribe for job well done?

Rusty or smooth paint work?

Dirty or clean on outside?
Too clean. As if gone through a car wash just before it’s seen, only every day. A little suspicious.

Dirty or clean on inside?
Her bag on passenger seat when she’s in the car. Glove box has glasses, contact lenses and an emergency phone. Also has road service numbers taped to inside of door. Why does she have an extra phone?

How is it so dirty/clean?
She doesn’t do it herself. Pays to get it cleaned and regularly. Hates muck. Doesn’t get on with mother who is an alcoholic. The mess, clutter and anger got to her.

What is personal about the objects inside the car?
List of road services – can’t fix own car. No mechanical bent. Extra phone – undercover work business or dodgy connection to somewhere else?  Picture of a smiling man hung around the mirror. At least 3 years old. He’s cute, would be around her age.

What do the keys and keychain (if there is one) look like?
Simple keychain with the car’s brand on it. Likely received on its purchase. No adornments.

Is it their car or shared?
Their own. Would not let anyone else drive it unless under duress.

Is there a radio or CD player?
Both. She likes audio books.

What sort of music is played?
Very little. She turns the radio off when the music comes on. Only listens for talk shows and news.

Is it modified? Why &how? (where did money come from etc)

Anything broken/stolen?
The right mirror is a little wobbly at the joint – hit something and never got it fixed.

Hopefully this can help a few of you. It’s made me see another side to Melissa. Possibly a few reasons for why she’s such an uptight prude and so irritating to my protagonist. If nothing else, I guess this method allows me to see the human side to my villain-like character!

It has also given me a few clues to her past and the option of a romance story gone wrong (and maybe later gone right). This could be entirely separate or joined to my main novel WIP series.

Give this a go if you have the time and let me know what you come up with! 🙂

I’m thinking on a few more exercises.

Holly Ice


Simple Photographs – Inspiration & Character

When you see a photograph online on tumblr or deviantart or flickr etc what is your reaction to it? You may scroll up, view it again, but then what? I’ve found if I can’t look away from it more than once, the best thing to do is save it to my computer. Why? Because it interests me. Something in it has a spark I like looking at, that intrigues me, and that’s what I need in my writing, too.

It’s not just portraits that have this reaction for me but landscapes, too. I’ve done a similar post to this before but I’m going to really focus on character here and an exercise for getting stories off the ground from nowhere.

Here’s 3 portraits from my collection:




My character exercise would be to look closely at each of these portraits. What drew me to them? Why did it? What personality traits are here? Where can I imagine them being and not being? Who might be their love interest, their age, they occupation?

Ex: Portrait one I see a young girl – twenties – who is acting shy but smiling, happy, probably a bubbly type who occasionally backs into herself. She has tattoos so perhaps has a good sense of self or an adventurous side. I could see her in a coffee shop, a bar, a skate park. Her smile holds sweetness, like she may be in love. What does this give me? Either a character or a love story.

Portrait two I see an older women – late twenties, early thirties – clothing style more vintage, perhaps eastern. Appears cultured but perhaps snobby. Is posed to paint but not really into it, or passionate with her work. Perfectly groomed, everything placed just so. Either married or chronically single. Perhaps an older time or a sophisticated elite. Seems european – Berlin, Paris, Moscow etc.

Portrait three is in a different century. Twenties or thirties. There is longing here and perhaps fear. A need to be connected with, to get help. A loneliness or a plight is implied. She is like a wilted flower – pale, innocent and yet with make up she seems to have seen some of the world and be worse for it. There is a sad story here.

These may not give me a whole story but, as you can see, they can give me a place to start or a character to begin brainstorming around. Sometimes I might never use any of these portraits for a story but they are there on my computer just in case their character comes back to me and works in a story or in case they speak to me with a story that must be written.

Hope this helps!

Holly Ice

When Being Stuck is a Relief (writer’s block)

It has been too long since I last did a writing exercise so here we are…

Non themed anthology submissions or any submission without a theme gives me a blank.

I know for some people this is liberating but for me it is the opposite. Where do I begin? There is no spark to get me going on something new.
If I’m aiming to submit an old piece, this is fine. Not so fine if I’m starting from scratch.

So, what if nothing comes to mind, no ideas, no inspiration, nada?

I go back to secondary and primary school ideas.

Grab access to a random book title generator such as this or a better example you may have found.
Then look at the results. I got:

  1. Swollen Souls
  2. The Vacant Dream
  3. Dreaming of Someone
  4. The Moons’s Wizards
  5. The Boy of the Husband
  6. Boy in the Silk

Okay, so no.5 is useless as it makes no grammatical sense but the rest are okay.

I would then brainstorm the rest of these titles and see if I came up with a topic, story or character which interests me. Anything I get out of these titles can be renamed under a new title, something more fitting of the result.

No.1 For instance could be a demon story or a story about what happens to overweight men and women beyond the grave.

No.2 Could be about an empty house or a character who has lost their life’s purpose, their hobby losing to their hated career. It could even be about someone with no purpose or a drug addict who has no care for the future.

No.3 The obvious choice is a romance but this could also be a weird symbiotic connection between twins or mother and child or pet and human etc.

No.4 Sounds like a stereotypical fantasy story but then it could just be the title of a kid’s favourite bedtime story.

and No.6 could be an abandoned child, left in silk – a mystery of sorts as this indicates a wealthy background. Or it could be a young market trader in a foreign country.


All possibilities, themes and genres are open with these titles. Let the random words speak to you and tease you out of that writer’s block. I know  I’m going to if I come face to face with it again. It’s better than beating myself up over not writing until my brain refuses to work at anything any more.

Hope this helps some of you! I’ll be thinking of more writing prompts and exercises over the next few weeks.

Until then!

Holly Ice

The Inspiration of Myth & “King” Arthur


The last few months I’ve been reading up on myth and legend. They’ve given me some great ideas for stories but not just as-is. In an altered format, they can create something original and (hopefully) brilliant.

I’ve learnt writers cannot be afraid to change things: this is our job. The world as it comes to us is not always suitable for a retelling – bits may need rearranging, adding, subtracting…but let’s not get into the realm of maths here: we’re creatives after all.

Also, do not be afraid to take a tale like Cinderella or Thumbelina and make it contemporary, change the sex of characters, or setting, or emphasis. If you make this decision in order to create a new story, don’t be afraid to leave it unique!

Put in new names, clothes, etc! Let it be new, let the inspiration, the myth or tale that spawned your story, disappear. It will still be an influence or a starting point but your reader doesn’t necessarily need to know it was for you to have a great story.

As a last little tip to those who want to go further and learn more while they’re at it: unpick the myth. Find the meaning of the names, the places and their significance. Find where or how the myth started, whether it is based on fact or legend or religion.


I’ve found in my exploration of the King Arthur legends that Arthur was not historical at all but a myth which is first mentioned in welsh poetry. The discovery of these early mentions created a whole new vision of Arthur – a man of the Otherworld, fae, faerie, enchantresses, giants and the supernatural. He is still a hero fighting off bad forces for Britain but these are supernatural rather than historical forces.

Based on this research, I actually have a novel idea in the brewing stages. A novel where Arthur is a crime fighter of the supernatural world, once he is awaken. I’ve bought books on the Celts and Arthur in order for other titbits of Celtic religion and myth to inspire me in this project.

So, I know it sounds kind of boring…but research can be fun! The Arthur research was a mix of documentary-like reading  and old, bard-like tales of the unbeatable warrior.

Some of these old texts are very accessible and actually very enjoyable! I laughed aloud at a few and *may* have found the original inspiration for The Hulk!

Hope this helps those stuck with writer’s block. Anything on the page in a first draft is the first step!

And, as always, feel free to follow me on twitter.

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