Don't get too broken up over these 10 character writing prompts on the subject of exes. Whether you're thinking about Shakespeare or Michael Bay, many authors start their stories with a protagonist that has been jilted by an ex-girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, wife or lover. In many cases the exes are angry, vengeful people who seem to have no redeeming qualities. While this can actually happen in reality, it tends to be an easy choice for most writers to create such an awful ex to make a romance between the protagonist and a new character much more palatable. Personally, I find it refreshing to see the partner from a former relationship in a somewhat positive light. Regardless of how you choose to portray these former loves, make them well-rounded and interesting people that we'd be willing to go on a date with ourselves.
Free Character Writing Prompts #11: Exes
1. He was smart, funny and kind and after you put in two years trying to be the best girlfriend possible he left you and got engaged to the next girl within two months. You couldn't believe that after putting so much time into learning about his divorced parents, his fear of failure, his nerdy comic-book collecting adolescence and his foot fetishes, he was willing to jump into marriage with another girl so quickly. You wonder if it was his overbearing mother, who never really seemed to want you around. Maybe she just had better feet. What does the future hold for this toe-loving individual?
2. He was a total sleaze ball from the beginning and you never wanted to admit it to yourself. After all, he was the most attractive man you'd ever dated and he was more than a little attentive in the bedroom. Even though you suspected he was sleeping around, you decided against your better judgment to move in with him. The evidence become even more clear at that point. He dresses in expensive designer clothes and works hard for his father's company to keep his lifestyle supported. What is it that causes him to cheat on women and what would cause him to settle down?
3. She was a few years older than you when you started dating in college and it made you feel a whole lot cooler. She was fun-loving and wore wild clothes, some of which she designed herself. You spent many nights just walking around and talking with her into the wee hours of the morning on the subject of religion, love and sex. At the end of all those sleepless nights, she let you down easily but it hit you hard. One worry that you had about her from the beginning was that she'd been to five different colleges. Might she have been afraid of commitment? What is she doing now and why did she attend so many schools?
4. The first time you heard her sing, it was in her native language at a religious ceremony. You'd never listened to anything so beautiful and you did everything you could to learn more about her culture. She was also a decent athlete and you surprised her with a bouquet of roses and a box of protein bars when you asked her out. You only dated for a few months but you learned a lot about her love for her family and her desire to make them extremely proud. You suspect that it was her family that contributed to your break up and you wish you could have convinced them how much you were willing to adapt for them. What choice did she eventually make for her life partner and did her family approve?
5. At first you began dating him as a favor to your friends who set you up. You were surprised when you fell in love with this nerdy but caring man who was the best listener you've ever encountered. You've never felt as truly cared for as you did with him and you feel awful for having ditched him for what later became a summer fling. You suspected that you broke his heart but later heard that he found a wonderful girl who could appreciate him more. Sometimes you think of him as the one who got away but you wonder if you might have been tempted to someone more exciting again if you'd stayed together. How did he cope with the break up and what would happen if the two of you ran into each other again?
6. You'd heard about women who stayed in abusive relationships before and you'd always thought they were ridiculous. It wasn't until you found yourself in the middle of one with a very strong and angry man that you understood their situation. You had fallen head over heels for this very successful businessman with huge biceps and a temper. After you'd been dating him for nearly half a year, he began abusing you verbally and making you feel small. A few months after that he began hitting you when he was angry and intoxicated and you almost felt like you deserved it. After all, he was so much more successful than you so he had to be doing the right thing. You feel ashamed that you thought such things while they were happening and your friends eventually helped you out of the situation. He's now in prison for having assaulted you. What do you think he'll do when he gets out of jail and why does he feel the need to attack people he loves?
7. When you meet a person at a drunken party, it can be tough to know who that person really is when sober. You never really got the privilege of learning that about this girlfriend, since every time the two of you went out she got completely wasted. The first few times you went out, you wanted to match her drink for drink and be a real man. She laughed so loud and was so completely affectionate that you didn't want the party to ever end. A few weekends worth of hangovers later and you realized that for her, the party never stopped. You made an effort to hang out with her sober on several occasions, but she always showed up hammered. She didn't take your break up hard and whenever she sees you, she tries to put her tongue in your mouth. How long will she continue this lifestyle and will she ever find the drunken man of her dreams?
8. She was your polar opposite in almost every way you could imagine. She seemed stuck up and dressed like some kind of catalogue model. Her voice got on your nerves and whenever the two of you were in the same place you fought like an old married couple. During a strange moment alone, the two of you hooked up and kept it up for nearly a year. Despite the knockdown drag out verbal spats you two would have, you miss how tidy and put together she was. What caused her to be so prim and proper and what kind of people has she dated since.
9. He wasn't particularly attractive and he wasn't very athletic either. His family was kind of weird and your beliefs didn't sync up with his. But he was funny. Oh man, was he hilarious. He had the ability to turn any situation into a laugh riot, which was a welcome break from the serious year you'd been having. It wasn't just dumb jokes either, as he demonstrated wit, wordplay, pop culture references and physical humor as well. Since the big picture stuff didn't match up, the relationship wasn't meant to last, but he still calls every so often to check in and brighten your day. How did he develop such a sense of humor and what did he end up spending his life doing?
10. She was the one that wouldn't go away, no matter how hard you tried. You two had been dating for nearly a year when you decided to end things because she was too clingy. You tried to make the break-up gentle, but she just didn't get it. She had once told you the story of her seven year boyfriend trying to break up with her. She didn't get the hint for three weeks. Even when you spelled it out to her plainly with a pre-prepared speech, she still came over the next day to "hang out." None of this was malicious but it was a little bit crazy. She kept buying you small gifts to show that she cared, even when you started dating someone else. What made her act so clingy and why wouldn't she accept the end of a relationship?
Did you enjoy these character writing prompts? Keep an eye out for the book 1,000 Character Writing Prompts in late 2011.
Bryan Cohen is the author of more than 30 books, many of which focus on creative writing and blasting through that pesky writer's block. His books have sold more than 20,000 copies. You can find him on Google+ and Facebook.