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Current Challenge: 30-Day Character Study



November December SWG Challenge 30-Day Character Study

During this challenge, you will choose one character whom you want to study deeply and complete prompts and activities designed around developing a deeper understanding of that character. Prompts aren't only writing, and one does not have to complete them all. You may complete one prompt or all thirty--all participants will receive a creator stamp, regardless of how many prompts they complete. (There will be special stamps for those who complete higher numbers of prompts.) You may complete the prompts in any order. Some prompts include additional questions to spur your thinking on a topic. You do not need to answer all--or any!--of these questions in order to satisfy the prompt.

Due Dates

Participants have two months, until 10 January 2018, to complete challenge prompts for a stamp. You will have an additional week, until January 17, to report your progress, if you want a stamp for this challenge. Once your progress is completed, comment on Dreamwidth, on LiveJournal, send us an ask on Tumblr, or email us with the number of prompts you completed. (Make sure you let us know your SWG username, if it is not obvious from your username or email address.)

How to Report Your Progress

When reporting your progress at the end of the challenge, please let us know

1) the number of prompts you completed by the due date and

2) which of the following formats you attempted: creative writing, nonfiction/meta, art (graphic or traditional), and multimedia (podfic, video, infographic, etc).

How to Post Your Responses (if you want to)

Because this is a study, you may not want to share all (or any!) of your responses. Given that, you do not have to post your prompt responses publicly, although you are welcome to do so if you want, and there is a 30-Day Character Study option on the archive challenge list. Please see below for instructions on how to post challenge material that is not meant to be regarded as a finished, stand-alone fanwork.

Stamps will be awarded on the honor system, since not all fanworks will be publicly available. As always, we trust participants' judgment to know if a response satisfies a prompt.

Finished fanworks meant to be read/viewed as stand-alone pieces are welcome to be posted as separate stories on the archive.

If you want to publicly share challenge pieces that are not finished fanworks, you should create a single story on the archive for flash writing, sketches, notes, research, links lists, and other material that you develop during the challenge. Do not post each of these items as a separate story. You may also share this content on our Dreamwidth or LiveJournal, or post a link there to the tag where you are collecting your challenge responses.

The Prompts

  1. Drop Everything and Read, Part One. Take at least a half-hour to read what the texts say about your chosen character.
  2. Down Memory Lane, Part One. Think about your character’s childhood (or the early days of their existence if they had no childhood). What was the environment and daily life of their formative years like? Did they have siblings? What was their relationship to their family like? Who were their friends? What made them feel sad/angry/frightened? What made them feel content/excited/happy? Who were their teachers?
  3. Strong Points, Part One. Think about at least three strengths of your character - talents they were born with, skills they have learned, positive character traits… Write a scene in which your character really shines at something.
  4. Home Sweet Home, Part One. Think about a geographical location where your character lived. Learn more about what life in that location might have been like: the climate, topography, seasonal changes, flora and fauna, or anything else related to that physical location.
  5. What’s On The Menu? Your character’s food choices will be influenced not just by taste, but by their culture, environment and circumstances. Try to find out about what foodstuffs might typically be available to your character. What would be their everyday fare? What would be a special treat? Where does it come from? Who does the cooking?
  6. Artistic Licenses. Take at least ten minutes to peruse fan art about your character. If you are working on a rare character about whom little has been drawn, you may substitute looking at fan art about a group of characters to whom your character belongs (e.g., Dwarves, female characters, commonfolk, craftspeople, etc.) Think about which fan artists best capture how you imagine your character and why. Think about how your character's appearance does (or does not) support other aspects of their traits and history.
  7. Affiliations, Part One. Think about an important relationship your character has to another character in your verse. Spend at least a half-hour exploring that relationship in any way you choose. For example, you might read and research the other character, write or draw about their relationship, create meta or headcanons--your choice.
  8. The Mirror Cliche. Authors are often discouraged from describing their characters by having them look at their reflection in a mirror (or a pool, or a puddle, or whatever). For this one exercise, we want you to embrace the mirror cliche! Write a scene where your character sees their reflection. What do they see? What do they feel as they see it?
  9. Weak Points, Part One. Think about at least three shortcomings of your character - things they are bad at, mistakes they make, bad habits… Write a scene in which their failings play a pivotal role.
  10. What's in a Name? Research the meaning of your character's name. Think about how that name fits the character but also what the name might more subtly imply about your character.
  11. Drop Everything and Read, Part Two. Take at least a half-hour to read meta and scholarship written about your character. If you are working on a rare character about whom little has been written, you may substitute reading about a group of characters to whom your character belongs (e.g., Dwarves, female characters, commonfolk, craftspeople, etc.)
  12. Down Memory Lane, Part Two. Think about the rites of passage your character went through. These can be mundane things like learning to walk, their first kiss, or taking an exam; formal ceremonies like a coming-of-age ritual, graduation or wedding; or life-changing events. Which steps did your character take on the way to who they are?
  13. Home Sweet Home, Part Two. Where does your character live? What are their domestic arrangements like? What do their sleeping/dining/cooking/working areas look like? Where do they go to pee and poop? What about their tastes in interior decoration? Take the time to think about one habitation of your character in as much detail as you can come up with.
  14. Big Ideas, Part One. Create a visual representation of the big ideas you've learned about your character. This can be a quick list in a notebook, a series of sticky notes, or a graphical representation … or whatever you want to make or imagine!
  15. Big Ideas, Part Two. Using one of the big ideas from Prompt 14, revise an existing fanwork so that this idea is more strongly emphasized or create a new fanwork that brings this idea to the center of the piece.
  16. Down Memory Lane, Part Three. Imagine your character keeping a box of little mementoes that are important to them. Write a list, make a sketch, or create a fanwork where these mementoes feature.
  17. Affiliations, Part Two. Think about a group your character belongs to--perhaps a cultural group, a profession, a family or clan, or any other group of affiliated characters. Spend at least a half-hour exploring that affiliation in any way you choose, whether reading and researching the group, writing or drawing about the character's relationship to the group, collecting links and resources, writing meta or head canons, or anything else you can dream.
  18. Fan Art/Fancast/Fanmix. Create fan art of your character. Don't have an artistic bone in your body? You can substitute finding three images of different people who would fit how you imagine your character to look, or three sets of clothing/costumes that the character might wear, or make a fanmix of songs that relate to your character.
  19. Strong Points, Part Two. Revisit the list of strengths you’ve thought about for Prompt 4. This time, write a scene in which your character’s strong points cause them trouble.
  20. Who Are You? Using what you've learned about your character, take a Myers-Briggs type personality test for your character. What do you learn about the person? What surprises you?
  21. In Dreams. Your character is asleep and dreaming. What are their dreams typically like? Write or sketch a dream sequence that explores your character’s subconscious.
  22. What Do They Think About You, Part One. How do characters close to the one you’ve chosen (family, friends, significant other…) see your character?
  23. Drop Everything and Read, Part Three. Take at least a half-hour to familiarize yourself with fan fiction created about your character. If you are working on a rare character about whom little has been written, you may substitute reading about a group of characters to whom your character belongs (e.g., Dwarves, female characters, commonfolk, craftspeople, etc.)
  24. Weak Points, Part Two. Revisit the list of shortcomings you’ve come up with for Prompt 9. This time, write a scene in which your character turns a weakness into a strength.
  25. An Atlas of Everyday Life. Draw a map of a location familiar to your character. The location may be as small as a room or as vast as a realm. Include details important to your character's life or connection to this location.
  26. Happy Holidays. What special days does your character observe? Research or invent the customs of a holiday your character loves to celebrate. (See Darth Fingon's Elven Holidays and Festivals or the Thain's Book for more information on canonical Middle-earth holidays.)
  27. Beyond the Tales. Create a links list of at least eight sources of information that will help you understand an aspect of your character's life. For example, you may collect links that help you better understand the character's profession or a pursuit important to that character (e.g., hunting or harp playing). You may collect links on magic or mythology related to that character (e.g., telepathy or the trickster archetype). You may collect links related to the setting where the character lives, relevant real-world history, or anything related to that person at all. You do not need to read all eight sources; the idea is to have a starting point for future research and reference.
  28. Down Memory Lane, Part Four. Imagine your character writing or dictating their autobiography. What parts of their story would they hush up or change to make themselves look better? What parts would they blow out of proportion? What parts would make them cry?
  29. What Do They Think About You, Part Two. How do characters unfriendly towards your chosen character (rivals, enemies, ex-partners…) see them?
  30. Show It All Off. Create a fanwork about your character: any format, any genre.



Challenges have been a part of the SWG since our group was formed in 2005. Before the archive, there were challenges. Before References or any special projects or B2MeM or any of the myriad things we've done over the last decade-plus, there were challenges. From 2005 through 2008, we offered at least one challenge every month. In 2009, we switched to a quarterly format. Challenges were always entirely self-directed: You did not have to sign up, post your work by a certain date, or meet any other requirements.

Beginning in January 2017, we instituted several changes to the SWG challenges. We reverted back to the monthly format. But more importantly, we also modified our participation rules to encourage participation from both authors and commenters. Please read the guidelines below to participate in our challenges. Participants--both authors and reviewers--will receive a small monthly prize for their participation.

Please note that every challenge that has ever been offered by the SWG will continue to remain on the site, available for perusal and use by creators of fanworks who are looking for inspiration. Even if the deadline is passed, you are welcome to use the challenges listed on our site. And reviews of past challenge stories are always welcome and always receive a reward for that month. Again, the guidelines below have full details.

How to Participate

  1. New challenges will be released monthly on the 15th. You can find the current challenge in the Challenge section of our website or listed in the sidebar under Current Challenges. The current challenge can also be found on our satellite groups on LiveJournal, Dreamwidth, and Tumblr.

  2. Challenges will need to be posted to the SWG archive by the 10th of the month in order to count as an official entry for that month's challenge. Make sure that you add your story to the challenge using the Challenges field on the story submission form:

    screenshot of the challenges field on the story submission form

  3. The only exception to Rule 2: If you want to respond to a challenge in a format that is not easily posted to our archive (e.g., art, craft, video), you may post your response to our LiveJournal or Dreamwidth communities. Please identify it as a challenge entry somewhere in your post. Formats that must be posted to the archive to count include fiction, nonfiction/essays, poetry, script/screenplay, podfic, and other audio.

  4. You are welcome to cross-post your work wherever you want, but at a minimum, it must be archived on our website.

  5. Works must be Silmfic, but any genre, rating, pairing, characters, or format are allowed. Works-in-progress are welcome.

  6. Challenge entries will now be promoted in a monthly links list posted in our newsletter and satellite groups. (If you don't want your work linked, all you need to do is drop us a note to let us know.)

  7. Challenge participants will receive a stamp for each challenge that they complete. In addition, if you review a challenge story, you will receive a stamp for participating as a reviewer. Unleash your inner philatelist because we will start a stamp collection for all participants that will be updated from month to month! We will email you at the email address you have registered with us with a link to your stamps when we create your collection for you.

  8. Review challenges have no due date. However, if you are reviewing a story posted more than two months ago, we appreciate if you email us and let us know that you need a stamp. Please note that review stamps are not available for specific challenges before January 2017, although reviewing challenge stories posted before that date will still count toward the total number of challenge stories you have reviewed.

FAQs: Frequently [Anticipated] Questions

What is the challenge format?
The format will vary from month to month. Some will be simple prompt challenges. Others? Let's just say we have some wild ideas up our moderator sleeves ...

I hate this month's format. What gives?
There will be a new format next month, so we hope there will be a little something to appeal to everyone. If a particular month's format doesn't appeal to you as a writer, we encourage you to aim for the reviewer prizes that month instead!

Does my response have to be fiction or can I write poetry or nonfiction instead?
Unless the challenge specifies a particular format, then you can write any format that you want. Responses in formats other than writing, such as art or podfic, are also welcome.

How should I post art and other multimedia responses?
Formats that are not yet easily archived on our site can be posted to our LiveJournal or Dreamwidth communities. Please make sure that you identify your response as a challenge entry somewhere in your post. Formats currently accepted on the archive are fiction, nonfiction/essays, poetry, script/screenplay, podfic, and other audio. All other formats may be posted to LiveJournal or Dreamwidth.

My story is probably going to be really long. So I have less than a month to finish?
No, all you need to do is to post the start of the story. You can have as long as you need to update and finish it.

How long do I have to wait before I can cross-post my story to other archives?
You don't have to wait. It's your story. It's yours to do with as you please, including cross-posting it wherever and whenever you want. The SWG doesn't even have to be the first site where you archive it, but you do have to archive it with us before the deadline if you want to collect a stamp for it.

I commented on a challenge story on another site. Does that count toward the review challenge?
No. All stories and comments must be on the SWG archive to count for the challenge and to receive a stamp.

My story's kind of a weird interpretation of a challenge. Will it still count?
It sure does. We're not going to be checking entries to see if they conform closely enough to what we think is a proper response to a prompt. We're all writers too and know that sometimes prompts can run away with their writers along roads less traveled.

I don't want my work linked on a particular site or at all. Can I still participate?
You certainly can. Just drop us an email letting us know your preferences. You can be left off of one month's links list, all links lists, or a links list for a particular site.

This prompt seems perfect for a LotR story or a story for another fandom. Does that count?
We only accept Silmfic on our archive, and a story must be posted to our archive to count for the official challenge, so no, it could not count if it's not Silmfic. However, you're free to use the challenges to write other Tolkien-based and other fandom stories. They just can't count officially for our challenge.

Can I suggest a challenge?
Absolutely! If you have an idea for a format or a particular prompt, drop us a line at moderator@silmarillionwritersguild.org. If there's a format you loved and would like to see again, let us know!

Whom should I inform when I complete a challenge, either as an author or a reviewer?
You don't need to tell anyone. We'll be monitoring activity on that challenge on our site (which is part of the reason why challenge stories and comments must be posted to the SWG archive and not other sites or SWG satellites to count). However, if you're leaving a review on a challenge story that is more than two months old, letting us know with an email to moderator@silmarillionwritersguild.org would be much appreciated.

Can I still use the challenges after the deadline has passed?
Absolutely! All of our challenges are archived on our site by date and alphabetically by name. We will not offer stamps for stories posted after the deadline, but we encourage people to use our challenges list as a hammer to smash writer's block or to take their creative work in new directions.