My brain is probably just broken, but it has a question. It tends to invent odd scenarios that become quite interesting. It also knows that the story will only be interesting to others if it has characters and they do stuff... but it doesn't want to do that work.

For example, it seems like it would be interesting if a guy in jail was confessing to something he did as a kid that got him going down the wrong path, say... tricking Santa Claus into giving him a certain kind of present that he knew would slow Santa Down. This enabled him to catch Santa, which was fun, but also got him into lots of trouble.

Seems like a funny scenario. But my brain doesn't really create characters very well, and even when it creates them, it doesn't have them do interesting things.

In the Santa case, it might be funny if the kid took Santa hostage and made the reindeer do funny things. But then Rudolph (with his nose so bright) pretends to be a police car outside, and the kid surrenders. While my brain can see the scenario, it doesn't do well at inhabiting the scenario and seeing what characters are doing. Don't even get me started on high-level story arcs.

Anyway, if you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them. So would my brain. :)

  • 2
    I do not yet understand your problem here. In your case, I would simply sit down and write that story, and don't understand why you cannot. To help you with how to solve your problem, maybe you could give us some background info on your experience as a writer (is this your first attempt at writing fiction or are you a professionally published author) and what your process was in your other works.
    – user5645
    Feb 21, 2017 at 10:20
  • What you're experiencing is called Writer's block. An awful condition, and many would give a fortune to find an efficient cure.
    – SF.
    Feb 21, 2017 at 11:30

3 Answers 3


"But my brain doesn't really create characters very well." Mine doesn't either. Try creating characters on the page instead of in your head.

Just write a scene where the kid does something. You might find that the kid does or says something that surprises you. The character now has a trait. Write another scene and keep that trait. See what emerges next. Rewrite a scene. Write a new one and introduce another character. Tweak the characters, their traits, needs, prejudices.

This is exploratory writing. Maybe none of this will make it into your final draft, but that's okay. You're discovering who your characters are at this point. This is the fun stuff. Enjoy.

  • I like this answer. Adding to it: think of the art student who paints a still life. He is told, "Paint what you see." Try that. Try a series of short studies where you write a physical description of a place, or a person, physically, or you describe a character. Next, give your character a bit of action, and let us get to know his character through his actions. Hopefully these studies will get you started. Feb 25, 2017 at 6:39

This scenario seems to be character-based to me. You may not yet have developed your characters "fully", but that could come through actual writing and a bit of outlining.

It seems that you have simply had an idea, but yet to create it. Have you tried turning your "odd scenarios" into actual writing and not just summaries of "a situation"? It may help. For me, the characters create themselves when I write about them (it takes time) even if I "sketched them" somewhat differently.

You may, as you write, naturally stumble upon background information about how/why the guy would end up wanting to hold santa hostage (childhood trauma, bad manners, loneliness?) and this, among other things, may shape your character going forward as well. How was he sentenced to go to prison? what was his trial like? Were there any trouble determining if an actual crime was committed based on the "is santa real?" question?

Depending on the mood you create, this could develop into a comedy or maybe a psychological thriller based on delusions - just brainstorming..

Most likely, none of this will become clear to you until you actually write a part of the story. You can always remove parts of the story that you are unsatisfied with, but almost all writing helps your understanding of your characters and your story.


The part that is most obviously missing from what you describe is "why?" Character provides the why. But equally importantly, the why provides the character. A character is a person who would do this thing in this way.

You can start with the character and then ask yourself, what would this person do, given their character? Or you can start, as you have, with the action, and ask yourself why would someone do this thing in this way. Once you can answer that question, you have the core of your character. Once you have the core, you can fill in whatever detail you think appropriate that are consistent with that character.

  • 1
    If this were my question, I'd be ticking this one. This just is the answer, as far as I'm concerned. The only thing I'd add is that this can be done recursively, too. Why does character A do X? Because they believe Y. Why do they believe Y? Because it appeals to their desire for Z. But why do they want Z in the first place? Etc. Feb 23, 2017 at 11:17

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