Good stories center on the clashing of characters’ goals and motivations. Sometimes a character’s goals and motivations arise from feelings of having done something wrong. Here are four writing prompts for stories that center on guilt.
Man vs. man
Our main character doesn’t want to help someone he has responsibility for but at the same time feels guilt over these inner feelings of resentment or disinterest. How does he cope with the person who needs help, and how does he resolve his issues of guilt?
Man vs. society
The hero when a younger man committed a vile act, on behalf of his organization/government that he has felt guilt about for years. He’s been able to suppress it, but one day another young man he knows (maybe someone he has trained) is asked to commit the same atrocity. How does our hero prevent this young man from doing so, and how does he survive bucking a system that care little for his individual psyche?
Man vs. God(s)
What if our protagonist comes to believe that the faith he grew up in is causing his guilt and shame rather than offering him solace from it? What event (perhaps a sin?) precipitated this belief? How does he struggle with those of his faith and God, and how does he ultimately resolve his conflict with them?
Man vs. himself
The main character dealing with personal guilt for a bad, injurious choice he once made, finds a victim of a crime that parallels his. The discovery of this victim makes his guilt so unbearable that he must atone for it to set his world right. How does he go about coping with his guilt and making it right so he can live with himself?
My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.