Writing Prompts: Develop Your Character's Voice [Scene Stealers]

    Do You Have the Perfect Voice for Your Character?

    Welcome to Scene Stealers, our series of writing prompts designed to flex your creative muscles.

    We’re thrilled that so many of you are participating in our writing prompt series. (Read the other Scene Stealers here and add one of your own.)

    Here’s how Scene Stealers writing prompts work:

    • We set the scene
    • You steal it, make it your own, and
    • Share your creation in the comments section of this post

    Of course, it’s perfectly fine if you don’t want to share your work, but we hope you’ll do the exercise anyway.

    Now for the ground rules:

    • You must use the exact wording we provide—in this case, it must appear in the beginning of your story.
    • Your story must be 350 words or less.
    • Your work must be original and not previously published.
    • WTD provides an encouraging and safe environment for writers to grow and learn from each other. We’d love you to comment on other people’s submissions in a friendly and supportive manner.
    • We reserve the right to delete any comments or entries we deem inappropriate and those that do not meet the specifications above.

    This month’s installment is designed to help you develop your character’s voice. Voice communicates who the character is, where they’ve been and where they might be headed. A character’s voice is what makes him/her unique – and your story memorable.

     

    Scene Stealer #17

    I looked at the question: Who would you be if you could be anyone at all?

    I decided to answer it.

     

    Now steal this and make it your own.

    We can’t wait to read what you come up with, so please add your submission to the comments section of this post.

     

    By Vinita Zutshi, Guest Post Editor at Write to Done. Vinita also blogs at Carefree Parenting.

    Image: Character courtesy of Bigstockphoto.com
    About the author

      Mary Jaksch

      Mary Jaksch is best known for her exceptional training for writers at WritetoDone.com. Grab a copy of her free report, How to Create an Irresistible Lead Magnet in Less Than 5 Hours. In her “spare” time, Mary’s also the brains behind AlistBlogging.net. and GoodlifeZEN.com, a Zen Master, a mother, and a 5th Degree Black Belt.

    • Katie Allen says:

      I looked at the question, “Who would you be if you could be anyone at all.” I decide to answer it. I haven’t had much time to consider this, or anything like it. My future, who I might become. It’s interesting, and intriguing to think of one’s own ability to be something other than they are. To grow and learn. For once in my life, I allow myself to dream, to think non-literally. With no one else in the room, my heart and mind work together to create a blissful future.“Who would you be, if you could be anyone at all.” I start writing and my hand flies across the page, expressing years of worry, heartache, and concealment.
      If I could be anyone, anyone at all, I would be me, without my gift. I would be able to feel emotions, without everyone else’s getting in, and hurting me. I would be me, just better. I would be the person, that I couldn’t become on my own, and probably never would be able to accomplish. My handwriting would be perfect, I would always have a choice, I would be physically fit, emotionally capable. I would be able to feel the emotions of love, friendship, and happiness. I would be accepted and understood, and I wouldn’t have to hide my feelings.
      I’ve completely covered the front and back of the page now. I know I can’t allow myself anymore indulgence. It will only hurt me as I know this could never happen. I sigh and put down my pencil, trying to forget this ever happened and gearing up to go back to life, without my heart.

    • Terrica says:

      Scene Stealer #17

      I looked at the question: Who would you be if you could be anyone at all?
      I decided to answer it. I jotted down some bullshit answer on the paper, “I would be a man with integrity.” But, in reality that answer ain’t bullshit. I looked at the crew dispersed in different sections around the precinct. They’re all smiling, joking around and making comments about everyone’s “Who would you be” question. If the people in here knew that I was doing godawful things like…Man, they’ll never find out so I shouldn’t even worry about it.
      I pick up the paper and read the question again.
      “Hey, Rick! Who would ya be?” I look at Sid and everyone else’s eyes on me.
      “Yeah, who would you be? The Don Juan of Brooklyn!” shouts Cathy.
      I give her the finger. I read the question again but I’m not using my answer.
      “I’d be…I’d be…the best actor in the world.”
      “Who? Humphrey Bogart,” says Biggs.
      “You kidding me! Marlon Brando,” Stace retorts loudly.
      I stand up, “I’d be the best actor in the world cause they’re so good at their craft that they have everyone believing that they’re another person.”
      The Captain looks at me. I shrug my shoulders, “I don’t have a good answer. This question is stupid.” She just looks at me for a moment then says, “All right, let’s wrap this up and get back to doing real work.”
      They say when you tell a lie that part of the truth is in it. Both of my answers aren’t lies although I’d like to believe that they are. I guess my conscience is trying to remind me of who I am and who I’m not.

    • Mich says:

      I looked at the question: Who would you be if you could be anyone at all?
      I decided to answer it.

      I’m rather hesitant about answering this question. However, I soon realize I can be anyone who I want to be I
      am in total control of who I’d like to be. I am the ruler of my own Kingdom, that sounds more of a child
      who fantasizes of being a ruler. It then clicks , I know who I want to be, a ruler, the ruler of a Kingdom, however this calls for lectures which my brain immediately tunes out. My parents would take turns with their lengthy and unworthy lectures about how I am not a child anymore. In the end, it’s not about who people want you to be, you create your own fate. I now know who I want to be, myself as I am.

    • Mich says:

      Who could you be if you could be anyone at all?

      I’m rather hesitant about answering this question. However, I soon realize I can be anyone who I want to be I
      am in total control of who I’d like to be. I am the ruler of my own Kingdom, that sounds more of a child
      who fantasizes of being a ruler. It then clicks , I know who I want to be, a ruler, the ruler of a Kingdom, however this calls for lectures which my brain immediately tunes out. My parents would take turns with their lengthy and unworthy lectures about how I am not a child anymore. In the end, it’s not about who people want you to be, you create your own fate. I now know who I want to be, myself as I am.

    • Ivan Pope says:

      I looked at the question: Who would you be if you could be anyone at all?
      I decided to answer it.
      Then I decided not to.
      Nobody’s got a thing on me, I thought. I’m in control here. I am anyone at all. I’m me.
      The next time I woke up I had some questions. Anyone at all, you say. How would I be them? Do I travel in time, emerge in their world? Am I born them or do I somehow just pop up at the same age? It scared me, then, just thinking about it. If I became that person, would I know I had been me? And what would I leave behind?
      I drifted back to sleep. I didn’t sem to be getting better at staying awake.
      When I woke up again, I was anyone at all. I wasn’t myself, anyhow, not who I had been before. My family had gone, my job had gone. Worst, my self esteem had gone. I lay on the narrow bed for hours, thinking about who I might be. It slowly dawned on me that I’d become someone else without even being able to remember who I originally was.
      My doctor didn’t seem concerned. You can be anyone you like while you’re here. That’s more or less what you’re here for.
      That night I slipped out of the bed and climbed out of a window. Crossing the twelve lane highway, I made my way to the nearby suburb and found a call box. Calling the number scribbled on my hand, I told the woman who answered that I wanted to come home. Please.
      – I’m not sure who you are, she said. You could be anyone. Anyone at all.

      • Roshni says:

        Superrrrb!

      • Sydney M says:

        Nice! The ending is great, a mixture of poetry and the Twilight Zone!
        I like it.

    • Nuzinka says:

      I looked at the question: Who would you be if you could be anyone at all?
      I deceide to answer.
      Ironic question for me since I am already living to seperated lifes.
      At home I am Mienke, my dad’s blue eye girl and the annoying sister to my brother. I was the hated daughter to my drugaddict mother and the awesome big sis to my dead sister. Since I was sixteen and my mom started using drugs, I had to grow up quickly and became to lady of the house. I cooked, I cleaned and took care of everybody, icluding that bitch of a mother.
      On Campus I am a 5th year student, finishing my third degree at the ent of the year. I’m the bestest friend and neighbo to my peers, somebody to look up to. I’m also a pothead, with way to much money and no explanation to where it all comes from

      But 5 ‘o’ clock when everybody goes home, getting ready for the evening full of promises, alcohol and drug, I become Casey Bleasche, the bitch drugdealer who supplies the biggest druglords in Pretoria and Jo’burg. With seven men in her cartel, she handles everything and everyone with an iron fist. Taking shit from nobody and giving a fuck. She has one goal on her mind – Getting the attention of Gerard. The biggest Druglord in Jo’burg, her enstranged mother’s newest husband and her sister’s killer.

      So if i could be anyone at all, I want to be the 15 year old Mienke again, who doesn’t have a care in the world and a happy, complete family.

    • Mona says:

      I looked at the question: Who would you be if you could be anyone at all?
      I decided to answer it.
      “A porn-star with chlamydia.” I giggled to myself. How fun it would be to leave that answer. Unfortunately my teacher mrs Hobbs didn’t have a sense of humor. The old woman’s face would turn pink and then she would get another fit, just as she did when Timmy had drawn a picture of her in her underwear on the blackboard. That was funny. She then would give me an F on the assignment and call my parents to report what a horrible student I was. My parents would be equally outraged, no allowance, no phone and I would definitely be grounded for it. But it would almost be worth it, but then again no. There were two parties this weekend and they would be awesome, I would regret not being there for something stupid as this school assignment.
      I erased my answer and wrote “President” instead.

    • Roshni says:

      Hehe! Nice touch of humour.

      • Shooting star says:

        yeah thanks..it could’ve been better

    • Shooting star says:

      I looked at the question: Who would you be if you could be anyone at all?
      I decided to answer it.
      Perhaps MYSELF. My son goggled at me like a stricken goldfish. I had to act mature, I smiled at his innocence.
      “Being yourself can make you whatever you want. God has made you look unique but it is what your creativity and imagination that contains yourself.” I tried to explain but maybe I was too complex for a 10 year old boy.
      “Okay, heres an example. You go to school, play there and determine to be a sportsman. You go for it, work for it and you can be it. Similarly, you can be a scientist, editor, musician, doctor, choreographer and bla bla bla. So you dream it, work for it and you can be it.”
      “You mean to say I can be anything?” His words came out after suffering a huge shock.
      “Yes dearie”
      “Goodness gracious. Then it is rotten to imagine yourself to be like Bill gates or Steve Jobs when I can be more than that. When I can be Ryan, myself.”
      “I think you got it, dearie” I replied
      “I’ll ask my teacher not to give such silly topics anymore. I won’t this home work.” His childishness swept over his face and he ran to play with his friends outside taking this an oppertunity to miss his work.

    • Sydney M says:

      I looked at the question: Who would you be if you could be anyone at all?
      I decided to answer it.

      Mother Teresa.

      The name popped into my head and startled me so much that I couldn’t even write it down on the clipboard. I stood quickly, dropping the pencil and stepped away from the table.

      Mother Teresa? Is that who I would be? I wondered. Clutching my backpack close, I left the cafeteria and hurried down the hallway. The school was doing a student-wide poll, asking ‘Who would you be if you could be anyone at all?’
      I would have thought I’d put down a superhero, or some celebrity living their life’s dream . . . but a different name came to mind instead. Mother Teresa.

      Why her?

      The question kept coming back to me, pounding against my mind and my heart and I started to sprint instead of walk, unsure of where I was going except that I was leaving here.

      Was she beautiful? My thoughts asked. I had only seen vague pictures of an old woman dressed like a nun. Did she have children? Was she ever in love? Why would I choose this person whose life went against my own dreams?

      My heart was racing now as I began to run. I didn’t know Mother Teresa. I couldn’t list even a single quote of hers. But as I ran I realized that no matter who she really was, she symbolized something greater than herself.

      I realized that if I could be anybody at all . . . I would be selfless. I would be caring. I would be a person of faith. I would feed the hungry and reach the poor. I would be an instiller of hope. I would love and I would laugh with tears running down my cheeks unashamed and without pride holding me back. I would be thankful.

      I turned around in the hallway and ran back to where I came, to the clipboard.

      If I could be anybody at all, I would be a better me than I am right now.

    • Roshni says:

      “Dreaming of the future can be a good thing, especially when your current situation makes you feel trapped.” Great ending…positive vibes

    • Wendy says:

      I looked at the question: Who would you be if you could be anyone at all?

      I decided to answer it.

      Actually, I didn’t have a choice. All the missionary women at the small retreat in northern Japan were expected to contribute an answer.

      At the time I’d been in Japan for three years, had two young boys and were hoping for a third child soon. Neck-deep in parenting small children as well as culture-stress, it wasn’t so hard to dream about what else I would like be doing.

      My answer surprised people: magazine editor.

      I think it surprised me too. I wasn’t a solid A student in English at high school. Nor did I study anything to do with publishing or writing at university. My degree was in the Occupational Therapy (OT).

      However, in the years since I’d married, had kids, and became a missionary I’d drifted away from OT. One of my monthly pleasures was to produce our family’s monthly newsletter, the one required of missionaries.

      At the time this question was asked, I had no plans to become a magazine editor. I saw no avenue for that in the missionary work we were committed to. But only a couple of years later other missionaries began to ask for help with various publishing projects. Around the same time I began to work proactively on my writing skills: taking a short course, joining an online writing critique group, and seeking avenues for the publications of my articles.

      Soon, to my surprise, I found myself with an invitation to work on the editorial team of a quarterly magazine in Japan for missionaries.

      Now it’s been nine years since I answered that question and I’ve been the Managing Editor of Japan Harvest for nearly two years. It’s not been an easy job, but I enjoy the challenge and the satisfaction of the finished product. I’ve learned many things and it’s given me much pleasure.

      Dreaming of the future can be a good thing, especially when your current situation makes you feel trapped.

    • Roshni says:

      I looked at the question: Who would you be if you could be anyone at all?
      I decided to answer it.
      I am not big on reading biographies…so if I were to choose who I’d want to be I wouldn’t know the best of people. Besides biographies cant be the whole of a human life…there’s always more to it than gets written down or less?
      I wouldn’t feel qualified to choose without knowing someone wholly and completely…like I know myself.
      Or do I know myself?
      When I talk about being someone else…do I mean I want their life to be mine or do I mean I want to be them in my life. A tad bit confusing…let me clarify. I view my life as the result of a bunch of circumstances, a series of happenings and my reactions to them. Why do I react a particular way?

      Why! That’s just me. And because I am being me, my life turns out in a certain way. Change any one of these ingredients and my life gets played out differently. So which one of these do I want to trade with someone else…
      But then isn’t every one of us here for a unique one of a kind experience? And weren’t we specifically equipped to create one for ourselves? Is being someone else-anyone at all, as swell as being me?

      Naah! I’m just comfortable being me…call it the nothing-fits-quite-like-my-old-pyjamas syndrome.

      I just want to be the best that I can be…only I can be.

    • OliviaA says:

      I looked at the question: Who would you be if you could be anyone at all?
      I decided to answer it.
      “I would be my husband’s mistress,” I told the women at my book club.
      My response was received with shocked murmurs. They all looked at me as though I’d magically turned into her. But of course, there was no magic in this world. I was still forty-something, with hips widened by the passage of children and skin loosened by the passage of time.
      “He doesn’t have one,” my best friend said.
      I wasn’t sure if she was protecting him or protecting me with her comment.
      I raised an eyebrow. “Does your husband wear cheap, floral perfume?” I asked her. “Does he brush his teeth with bubblegum toothpaste?”
      He’d replaced me with a teenager. I didn’t know what she looked like, but I could imagine her legs being knobby like a foal’s and her body still uneven, wavering in between a woman’s and a girl’s.
      No one answered, but they all thought about their own husbands—some harder than others.
      “Are you jealous?” one of the new members asked.
      “Of what they have? God, no. She can sleep with him all she wants,” I said.
      “So what is it?”
      “I’d love to be able to dump the bastard without the fear of losing my house, custody of my children, my friends…” I let my voice trail off.
      I inspected the faces of the women I phoned twice a day to discuss juice cleanses, remedies for snotty noses, and cures for bouts of depression. Most sat quietly, lips buried in gargantuan glasses of wine. Some had the audacity to widen their eyes and utter glorious statements about never-ending friendships. If they didn’t shut me out, their husbands would.
      “Think about it,” I said. “If I was my husband’s mistress, you would hate me. I would rather incur hate than your pity. Pity is dreadful. Pity makes people weak. It is because of your pity that I stay with him.”
      I rose. No one asked where I was going, so I left, with no idea where I would end up.

    • I looked at the question: Who would you be if you could be anyone at all?
      I decided to answer it.
      The executives at the Human Resource Office were expecting an interview for a new position to take place that afternoon. I overheard about this on the bus in the morning and I wondered what would happen if I showed up instead of Miss Graber.
      So I called Miss Graber on her cell phone and summoned her to another emerging interview down at the county court house. Since they had never seen either one of us, I figured my acting would get me through the questioning part.
      I had always wanted to be an Administrative Assistant, but my background always placed me in a café waiting tables. I had a good personality, but as you know, you can only pretend you know a job for so long. Every time I tried a secretarial position, my typing was a disaster and I didn’t even know Word.
      Sitting in front of the big desk with the big city window in the background, I crossed my lanky legs and chuckled to myself. Now the questions began. It’s OK I said to myself regaining composure.
      “Now, Ms. Graber, what was your last position like and why did you leave it? Did you give notice and how much?”
      “As a matter of fact, I left the day after I started. I felt immense pressure to dress a certain way and I was unhappy there. I didn’t think I needed to give a notice after being treated so shabbily. They acted as if I needed to wear different clothes each day and that was too much!”
      A shocked look was painted all over the conductor of the interview. He stared at her and was so baffled he wondered if he should even ask anything else. But he did.
      “Well, Ms. Graber, I suppose all your other jobs went much better, so why don’t you tell me about the previous one?”
      I worked as a zookeeper but it really stunk. It also stinks in here. Good day.

    • S C T says:

      I looked at the question. Who would you be if you could be anyone at all?

      I decided to answer it.

      So easy he thought. To be able to operate on this man and tell him how to act in this laboratory. After all he wanted this-he deserved this-I could tell. That smirk on his face, the conniving look written in his brows, told it all-this man wanted nothong more than to diagnose this patient. To put him with the rest-psychotics. I looked at the page and felt sick. Who would i want to be in this life work under any halfway decent man. What other answer would be there. Perhaps it sounds cold but i have my ethics- I will work yes, but in the spirit of honest trustworthy employment-not like some mad dr who secretly, if one were to assume, takes a thrill of prescribing drugs just out of his own sick amusement. No its obvious if i could be anything id be a lawyer and find ground to finally get him out of the company.That or be a writer and tell the sorry person working in this God forsaken company to be more accurate about the type of work i would be getting in.!

    • Laura Starkey says:

      I looked at the question: Who would you be if you could be anyone at all? I decided to answer it.

      I beg your pardon. Just who do you think you are? You have no right to ask me a question like that. I have known some nosy people, but you amaze me. Do you actually believe that I will divulge such powerful information?

      Oh…hello. Could I answer your question? I would be a beautiful princess. I would have long blond hair. I would live in a big castle. I would…

      This is laughable. Why would I change who I am? I am feared and obeyed. I have power over the others. Ha! They don’t have…

      What?! How did you find me? Who told you? Please, don’t mention me to them. Come back later and maybe I can answer you. Quiet! I think they are coming.

      Sweetie, don’t get yourself all stressed thinking so hard. Have some delicious apple pie and homemade ice cream. After we eat, we can sing around the piano, and watch grandpa do some whittling.

      Really, I don’t have time for this, and it is not on my important-things-to-do list. I might be able to work it in next week. Leave me your contact information, and I’ll see what I can do. But, I make no promises.

      Who would I be? I would be anyone, just any one. Can you help me?

    • Wolfe E Daniels says:

      I looked at the question: Who would you be if you could be anyone at all?
      I decided to answer it.
      I knew the question was a trap. The attorney’s smile told me that much. I knew he was expecting me to say that I wanted to be the murdered actor. He wanted me to hand him a confession on a silver platter and thought this would open the door for their shrink to blast my character.

      I smiled at the attorney and felt a thrill as his smile faded. He knew I had figured him out. It only made me smile wider. I had to stifle a laugh for that too would open the door for the shrink.

      “I would be myself of course,” I replied. “I like who I am, so why fix what ain’t broken?”

      The murmurs in the jury brought the attorney’s head snapping around. He glared at me, his face an unhealthy shade of red. Veins popped out on his forehead making me wonder if he was about to have a stroke. The attorney turned his back on the jury, stepping between them and I blocking their view.

      He mouthed the words “You’re dead” which only made me smile wider.

      I gave him a saucy wink and puckered my lips making kissy faces at him.

      That was too much for him, he lunged over the bannister reaching for my neck. I widened my eyes innocently as the bailiff escorted the raging man from the courtroom.

      I turned my head and gave the judge my best confused look.

      “Did I do something wrong?” I asked.

      The judge just shook his head and dismissed me. I made my way through the crowds, keeping the bewildered look on my face until I climbed into the back seat of the waiting Limo.

      “Where would you like to go, Sir?” the driver asked.

      “The airport please. I have to get back to Harvard. My psychology students are sure to have a great deal of questions for me.”

      “Very good, sir.”

      Laughing, I poured myself a scotch and enjoyed the ride.

      • OliviaA says:

        Really great. Loved your premise and the total self-confidence your character.

    • Debra says:

      I looked at the question: Who could you be if you could be anyone at all? I decided to answer it. As I looked again at the question on my screen it was remarkably like the one on the note pad next to my keyboard. It
      was slightly different in its wording. The question on my note pad asked Who am I? But the premise was the same. Then I looked again, and saw the difference. The question on my note pad seemed to ask who was I. Now this very moment in time. And to answer that honestly all I could come up with is this; I am a women who is in love and believes in love. Whether its being in love with someone as I am now, or loving what I do for a hobby or for a living. But digging deeper the question who am I asks so much more. Who am I is a woman , a writer, a Christian looking for her way. But now that I’ve answered who am I, I can now ask who could I be if I could be anyone at all. This provokes so much more and requires quiet time and deep probing. For when I ask If I could be anyone in the world who would I be – the answer I say off the top of my head with no hesitation – is this- ” who could I be if I could be anyone at all” this is my answer I would be happy and free because I am me.”

    • I looked at the question: Who could you be if you could be anyone at all? I decided to answer it. I never knew just how much of a stranger I was to myself. Faced with this question, my own existence felt unreal.
      Who was I after all? With the weight of my insignificance in its muchness, I stared in a mixture of disinterest and despair at the lone drop as it glided down my cold beverage. “I could be a better lover…” I thought, with eyes closed deep in a sigh. “I could watch the silly movies and do all the little things” my head shook uncontrollably as the liquor took its toll. The world around me spun out of control as if to mimic my disastrous love life.
      Brian gave me a curious cold stare as I slammed my fist onto counter, trying to suppress my thoughts. “It can’t be that bad…” he said sliding another bourbon my way. “Nope…” I replied composing myself, vainly disguising the anguish at how much of a failure I had been. Brian’s voice faded into a hollow melody out of tune with the rest of the background.
      “I could laugh with her more often” my thoughts carried on, hearing her laugh in my head. “Of all the things I could be, I can no longer be this person I had become.” “But who are you? And who would you be?” the question beckoned in my mind as I slowly crumpled the pamphlet in my hand hoping with it out of sight, so will the torment of my aimlessness vanish along with it.
      At that moment the old man appeared, as an anchor in this raging sea. He always had this seriousness about him. It was his countenance that always gave me hope that he would know what to do. “Man up” was all he said. At this, I paid what I owed and went to claim back her heart. Looking at the mirror as I stood up, I decided. I could be me, a man.


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