Hump Day Writing Prompt: Character Fidgets


Last week my husband bought something called a fidget cube. It’s basically just a cube with different fidgety things on each of the six sides. I feel like this is a particularly apt quirk for Kevin, because he’s a craps dealer. He spends a lot of time with dice in his hand.

Image result for fidget cube

So, the fidget cube made me start thinking about character fidgets.

I don’t know about you, but I find myself having EVERY character do a lot of shifting weight from foot to foot or nodding or pacing or smiling. My characters smile a lot. When they’re happy, when they’re sad, when they’re nervous. They’re smiley people.

So smiley that I have to search for smiles in my finished manuscripts and tone them down.

Everyone has a fidget. Something they do when they have to do something. I spin a pin between my fingers. I know a girl with the (terrible) habit of chewing on the ends of her hair. My husband, when he isn’t fidgeting with his new cube, rubs the bridge of his nose, even though he hasn’t worn glasses in fifteen years.

Fidgets do a couple of important things in fiction.

They’re beats.

While you want to be careful about having your protagonist bite their thumbnail on every page of your book, a fidget can be a good way to pace your dialogue. It forces the reader to stop for a second, the way your character might.

They provide character insight.

Why does your protagonist rub at their lower back or whistle under their breath? Is it a tell? Maybe they only do it when they’re lying or feeling guilty or hiding a juicy secret.

This week’s prompt:

Write a scene that includes a character’s fidget. It can be your protagonist, but I think that even minor characters can be deepened by having some sort of tell (if it moves the story forward.)

My Example:

(The fidget is highlighted.)

Mom wouldn’t let me leave the house without eating breakfast and she wouldn’t let me go to anyone’s house, not even our next door neighbor’s, before nine a.m. After I got dressed and ate some banana bread, I sat at the kitchen table fully dressed, with my shoes on, drumming at the table with my fingers, watching the clock tick slowly, slowly from 8:34 to 9:00.

The instant it did, I went into my parents’ bedroom. “Can I go to Roona’s?”

“Your room,” Mom said.

“I promise to finish it after lunch.” I looked at Dad. “Please?”

It was his first day at his new job. He was going to work in marketing at a big casino on the outskirts of the most outskirt town in the world. He adjusted his tie and said, “Your whole room unpacked by the time I get home from work sounds great to me.”

“I don’t know about my whole room,” I said.

He held out his hands, like it wasn’t up to him, then pointed his forefingers at me. “It was your plan, Boss. Have fun with Roona this morning, then get to work.”

Mom lifted her eyebrows and I said, “Okay, fine.”

“Can I go?” Harper asked from the bedroom door. “I want to go.”

“No way.”

“Mooom! I want to go with Gideon.”

“I need your help here, Harper.”

Harper pouted and I left while I had the chance.


Your turn, Ninja! Write your scene and come share it on Facebook if you want some feedback.


Did you know that there’s an ebook full of all the Hump Day Writing Prompts from 2016? Every Patreon Patron gets a copy–even at the $1 level! Check out the $10 level for The 1000 Day MFA.


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