Publish date:

What Would Your Character Do?

Quizzes and tips to find out how your character would act in a variety of situations.

Buy book | Amazon  |

Image placeholder title

What Would Your Character Do?
by Eric Maisel, Ph.D.
Writer's Digest Books, 2006
ISBN 978-1-58297-372-2
$15.99 paperback, 256 pages

Read an Excerpt
Put your character at a their family picnic. Is your character excited about the picnic or are they searching for a way out? How does he or she greet their parents? And what kind of parents created a character like yours? Find out in Scenario No. 1 from What Would Your Character Do? Plus download a PDF of Scenario No. 1: Family Picnic and the Table of Contents.

About the Book
Just how well do you know your characters? Test yourself—and your characters—with 30 interactive pop quizzes designed to help you discover exactly what makes your characters tick.

Noted author Eric Maisel draws on his technical knowledge of the craft and his background in psychology to show you how to combine character traits, character psychology, and character development to create realistic, memorable, and mutable characters.

The 30 real-life scenarios include questions and answers that provide you with a window into your characters’ souls. For example:

  • What would motivate your character to tell a lie—a big lie that may have unintended consequences?
  • Is your character the type who would blow the whistle on a corporate cover-up or would she quietly toe the line?
  • How would your character cope with the loss of a parent with whom he was exceptionally close?
  • How likely would your character be to flirt with an attractive stranger in a hotel bar?
  • Is your character the type who would drop everything—and everyone—for a spontaneous road trip?

Plus, find out how to develop each scenario further using corresponding prompts and specific psychological insight into areas such as the role friendship plays in a person’s mental and physical health, conflict resolution in intimate relationships, and the connection between time-impatience and free-floating hostility.

With What Would Your Character Do?, you don’t have to guess at your character’s responses to the important decisions and unexpected challenges he’s sure to encounter in your story. Use and reuse these scenarios on each of your characters until you’ve got a nuanced, distinct cast that readers will never be able to forget!

About the Author
Eric Maisel, Ph.D., is a licensed family therapist, creativity coach, and creativity coach trainer with a doctorate in counseling psychology and master’s degrees in creative writing and counseling. His more than twenty-five works of nonfiction and fiction include The Van Gogh Blues, a Books for a Better Life Award finalist; Affirmations for Artists, named best book of the year for artists by New Age Magazine; Fearless Creating; The Creativity Book; and the recently published Coaching the Artist Within, A Writer’s Paris, and The Ten Second Pause.

Regarded as America’s foremost creativity coach, Maisel maintains a private creativity coaching practice in San Francisco, facilitates the Creativity Coaching Certification Program for the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, and trains creativity coaches nationally and internationally.

Table of Contents


Chapter No. 1: What Is Personality?
Chapter No. 2: Understanding Your Characters
Chapter No. 3: Using This Book


No. 1: Family Picnic
Your character spends several hours at a family picnic attended by parents, grandparents,siblings,aunts and uncles,and other members of her extended family. Does she enjoy the event or spend it hiding in the bathroom?

No. 2: Jury Duty
Your character is called to jury duty for a criminal case such as a rape charge or, alternatively, for a civil case involving product liability. Does he embrace his civic responsibility or try to shirk it?

No. 3: Poolside Encounter
Your character is on vacation and, while sunning herself by the pool, has an encounter with a stranger who asks a too-intimate question. How does she respond?

No. 4: Fender-Bender
Your character is involved in a fender-bender accident that is his fault or, alternatively, that isn’t his fault.What is he most concerned about after the accident?

No. 5: Elegant Party
Your character is invited to a very elegant party. Is she excited? Nervous? What does she do to prepare for the event?

No. 6: Stranger in Town
Your character finds himself a stranger in a seemingly sinister town. Does he keep moving or try to investigate?

No. 7: Flirting
Your character finds herself in a hotel bar and an attractive stranger begins flirting. Does your character flirt back?

No. 8: At the Airport
Your character has two hours to kill between planes. How does he pass the time?

No. 9: New Neighbors
Your character meets his new neighbors, who, for some reason (because of their race, ethnicity, social class, regional background, political opinions, etc.), tend to stand out in this neighborhood. How does your character decide to treat them?

No. 10: Blowing the Whistle
Your character learns information about some significant criminal activity (political, corporate, military, medical, etc.). Does she decide to blow the whistle?

No. 11: Poker Night
Your character finds himself in his first high-stakes poker game. How does he play at the beginning? When he’s winning? When he’s losing?

No. 12: On Stage
Your character must give a speech before a large audience. What sort of public speaker is she?

No. 13: Vivid Dream
Your character has a particularly vivid dream. How does she react to it?

No. 14: A Boring Day
Your character is trapped in an especially boring day. How does he react? First of all, does he even notice?

No. 15: Road Adventure
Your character sets off on a road adventure. How sedate or wild an adventure does he have?

No. 16: At the Sex Shop
Your character passes a sex shop and decides to drop in. How does she react to the array of sex toys? Does she make a purchase?

No. 17: Deathbed Secret
At the deathbed of someone significant (like a parent or spouse), your character learns a life-altering secret. How does he react?

No. 18: Stalked
Your character is being stalked. What hidden aspects of your character’s personality does this bring to the surface?

No. 19: A Very Busy Day
Your character is having a very busy day, one that allows him hardly a moment to breathe.What is he like on such days?

No. 20: A Moment of High Drama
The situation is a life-or-death one. How does your character react?

No. 21: Late at Night
It is three in the morning and your character can’t sleep. Why? Not being able to sleep, what does he do?

No. 22: Sudden Leadership
Your character is thrust into a leadership role.What sort of leader does he make?

No. 23: Diagnosed With an Illness
Your character learns that she may have a life-threatening illness but the test results won’t be in for a week. How does she spend that time?

No. 24: Caught in a Big Lie
Your character is caught in a big lie. First, why did he lie? Second, how does he react to getting caught?

No. 25: Death of a Parent
Your character must deal with the death of a parent. How does she handle that crisis?

No. 26: Meeting the President
Your character is invited to meet with the president. How does he react to the trappings of the Oval Office and the encounter itself?

No. 27: Lovers’ Spat
Your character has a squabble with her lover. How does she react to the things her lover says?

No. 28: Sudden Success
Your character has a sudden success like receiving a huge promotion or winning the lottery. How is he changed by the event?

No. 29: Big Favor
Your character’s best friend asks her for an enormous favor. Does your character agree?

No. 30: Meteor Coming
Scientists predict the end of the world. How does your character react?


Appendix: Recommended Reading

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: 6 New WDU Courses, An Upcoming Webinar, a Competition Deadline, and More!

This week, we’re excited to announce 6 new WDU Courses, an upcoming webinar, a competition deadline, and more!

Working With a Nonfiction Book Publisher Throughout the Process

Working With a Nonfiction Book Publisher Throughout the Process

A publisher accepting your manuscript is just the beginning, not the end. Author Rick Lauber discusses how to work with a nonfiction book publisher from query letter to release date and beyond.

From Script

Writing Empowered Superheroes in CWs Supergirl and Understanding Animation From the Trenches (From Script)

In this week’s round-up brought to us by Script Magazine, story editor Katiedid “Did” Langrock speaks with Reckless Creatives podcast. Plus, one-on-one interview with CWs Supergirl actress turned scribe Azie Tesfai about her groundbreaking episode and more!

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: The Characterless Character

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: The Characterless Character

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so this series helps identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is writing a characterless character.

When Is My Novel Ready to Read: 7 Self-Editing Processes for Writers

When Is My Novel Ready to Read: 7 Self-Editing Processes for Writers

Fiction editor and author Kris Spisak ties together her seven processes for self-editing novels, including editorial road-mapping, character differentiation analysis, reverse editing, and more.

Poetic Forms

Englyn Unold Crwca: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the englyn unold crwca, a Welsh quatrain form.

5 Things for Writers to Keep in Mind When Writing About Spies

5 Things for Writers to Keep in Mind When Writing About Spies

A spy thriller requires more than a compelling story and clever plot twists—the characters need to feel real. Author Stephanie Marie Thornton offers 5 tips for constructing believable spy characters.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unexpected Team Up

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unexpected Team Up

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, it's time for a little unexpected team work.

Taylor Anderson: On Creating Realism in the Weird

Taylor Anderson: On Creating Realism in the Weird

New York Times bestselling author Taylor Anderson discusses the process of writing his new science fiction novel, Purgatory's Shore.