Free Character Writing Prompts #42: 
Poor and Destitute

It's a hard knock life for these character writing prompts that focus on the poor and the destitute. There are many who would consider themselves poor in the United States as they are on programs such as welfare and food stamps to ensure they receive the proper sustenance. In other countries, however, poor might mean going without food, clean water and adequate medical care for long periods of time. Whatever your setting, it can be easy to ignore the problems that those struggling financially can have with their lives and how it can affect them mentally and physically. By playing up those internal and external struggles, you can develop a character that is deep with conflict and hopes for a better future. 

Free Character Writing Prompts #42: Poor and Destitute

1. He used to think that he was lucky to have gotten into such an elite academic institution. Little did he realize that later on, the debt he incurred would push him well below the poverty line. He knew a lot about engineering but little about finances and he took part in poor spending habits throughout eight years of school, before becoming a father to twins out of wedlock. Between the ring, the hastily put together ceremony, the diapers and his school loans, he hoped that a job would show up on his doorstep. Unfortunately, after attempting to get employment for six months, he had to take a much lower paying job and apply for every government assistance program under the sun. Will he be able to pull himself out of a rough financial situation?

2. He'd had a rough life, going from foster home to foster home until he graduated high school. He had an undiagnosed mental handicap that made most around him assume he was simply dumb. His school district graduated him even though in actuality he barely had an eighth grade education. He had a job as a stock boy at a grocery store until he was fired for having a mental episode. When he was unable to pay his rent, he took to the streets, hoping to find an opportunity somewhere along the way. He was eventually put in a halfway house where his condition was finally diagnosed. After 30 years of life and some much needed medication and counseling, he was back in the work force with a similar job. What has he learned from his years of thinking so lowly of himself and what does the future hold for him?

3. She knew that education was one of the keys to life and she'd always wanted to go to college. Her parents just didn't have enough money and she was unable to get the scholarship she wanted. She worked hard for years just to get together the funds for her tuition and she eventually did go to the school of her dreams. Afterward, though, she was unable to find a job in a tough marketplace and her years of work, followed by her years of education felt like a waste. She found the love of her life and a low-paying job that would hire her, but it was extremely tough making ends meet. Sometimes it felt like she was in prison, surviving on bread and water alone. Will she once again turn to education to move up in the world or will she find a different way out of poverty?

4. She had lived a very comfortable life in a two-income household through the end of high school and she rarely thought about money. After graduating from college, she asked her parents for help with the rent in her big city apartment and she was surprised to find that their answer was no. She wasn't used to having to work for her money and after a few deferments, she found that her college loans and her rent was just too much for her. Her parents refused to let her move back in and she found a room in a very shady part of town that she could afford. She prayed for a raise at work to be able to afford an occasional night out, as her current salary could only pay for her loans and the smallest of portions. She went on the food stamp program just to sustain herself and wondered how she'd gotten into this situation. Will she be able to turn her life around and why?

5. He had a philosophy that money was not very important to him and that he'd live his life that way. Of course, he used this philosophy to avoid looking at where his money was going and how much was coming in. By the time he reached the age of 30, this left him with a large amount of debt and hardly any money saved up at all. He didn't want money to control him, but here it was doing just that. He was living in a crummy apartment, eating Ramen noodles twice a day and doing nothing in the way of leisure. He determined that he was going to get out of this situation by becoming a master of money and he began taking personal finance courses. How successful is his quest of learning more about how money works as opposed to his earlier attempts to avoid thinking about it?

6. All he wanted to do was travel. He would save up every penny of his paychecks to go on vacations throughout the country and abroad as often as he could. He eventually lost most of his jobs as a result of his constant need to get out of town, and he continued to fund his trips on credit cards, hoping things would work themselves out. They never did and during a trip overseas, he was robbed and assaulted. There he was, recovering in a hospital with no money to pay the medical bills or to return back home. He tried to call in some favors, but he'd already used them all. What will he do in this sticky predicament and how will his traveling activities change if he ever gets out of this jam?

7. She simply wasn't a money person and she let her husband handle most of the finances of the house. She had no idea that he was using some of their hard earned money on drugs, because it seemed like the family was doing OK for itself. A few years into the marriage, she noticed that the checkbook was severely unbalanced and realized what was happening. When she confronted her husband about the status of the money, he told her they were broke and that they were going to lose the house. She took the situation personally, wondering how money troubles and a junkie husband could have happened to her, she thought she was such a good person. What has caused her to assume that this situation somehow makes her less of a person?

8. She took a sort of pride in the fact that she seemed unemployable. She'd had a few jobs after college, but a combination of her attitude and her less than traditional looks made it tough to keep a job when sweet, pretty girls seemed to get most of them. She took to the online world of freelance writing and blogging and she barely earned enough to pay her rent. She hoped every day that she could become a huge online success to increase her income for new clothes, better food and a bigger place. She worked hard and had a tough time being alone all day, but she knew if she put in enough time it would have to work out. Will she ever find her big break online and if so, he will her opinion of herself change?

9. He was an absolute shopaholic. If there was something that he wanted, he knew he could manipulate the credit card system to get it. He would pay off one credit card bill with another credit card and he somehow always made it work out, due to a decent income. When he began having health troubles, he tried to compensate for how badly he felt by purchasing more stuff, instead of keeping money set aside for his bills. Eventually, it became too much and he had to stop himself from buying his way into oblivion. He began selling his stuff and going to shopping addiction meetings. It would take him a long time to pay off his $100,000 of debt, but he knew he'd never be healthy unless he did. How did this addiction come about and how successful are his attempts to rid himself of it?

10. As a writer and an actor, she barely earned half as much as her science and business-focused friends after they graduated from school. And yet, she wanted to keep up with them as much as she could as far as social hangouts went. Several nights a week they went out to the swankiest bars and racked up some major tabs. She felt a strain from all of these expenses, but they were her friends, of course they wouldn't do anything that wasn't in her best interest. When she lost her job, she had to rethink her spending habits in a hurry and she even had to take a loan from one of her more successful friends. Will she continue to remain friends with this higher earners after adjusting her habits and why? 

Did you enjoy these character writing prompts? Buy the full book of 1,000 Character Writing Prompts on Amazon! 

Done with Character Writing Prompts about the Poor and Destitute? Go back to Creative Writing Prompts. 

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    Written by Bryan Cohen

    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 and Facebook.
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