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Enriching Your Story's Universe - A Writing Exercise

Updated: Jan 18

In our August 28th workshop, Erik presented us with a fantastic writing exercise to help enrich your story's world and characters. This prompt was such a hit that everyone wanted to try it on other characters, other stories, in all sorts of applications. We're sharing it here - have fun applying it to your work and seeing what new and interesting ideas come from it!

Enriching Your Story's Universe

Many writers have an internal story they're trying to get out, their "Work In Progress" (WIP) with a main character in a custom world and a plot that feels compelling. Sure, the main character may be really well developed, and there's a good chance their adversary is, too – whoever or whatever that is.

One of the things that makes a universe come alive, however, is believable, compelling side characters. Secondary or even tertiary characters that could blossom and spin off into their own story. Even if your audience never sees it, if the author knows it's there, they can drop hints to the relationship with the main, or hints at the history, the battle scars, the haunted or heroic moments that allow this other character to share dramatic space.

Today, we're going to explore a side character.

If you have a WIP, think about a side character. If you don't have a Work In Progress, that's great too: we're going to give you a few questions with suggested options and you can apply it to create a new scenario, or adapt it to your Work In Progress.

The idea is to give this other character their own worthy experience, make them the protagonist of this short story.

1) Main character vs Main Antagonist

This character will be (pick one, flip a coin, roll the dice):

a) sidekick or henchman

b) a close relative (of the main protagonist/antagonist)

c) a teacher/mentor (of the main protagonist/antagonist)

d) a co-equal associate / contact (of the main protagonist/antagonist)

2) This short story is about that character doing:

a) something in the past on their own

b) something in the past with either the hero or the villain

c) something current on their own (this would count as a potential subplot)

d) something current with either the hero or the villain

3) This focuses on:

a) high-action

b) tension-building preparation

c) character-building reveal (why'd that person pick the side they did?)

d) this side-character's secret motivation…

Once you have one option from each category, let the options inform the setting and give us a scene that makes this side-character come alive.

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