Writing Prompt: Skinning Orcs

Orcs are grotesque-looking, often evil, brutish, and warmongering or bloodthirsty creatures originally conceived in J. R. R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy. They’re popular in fantasy games and  fiction of all sorts. I love them because of what they have in common with dinosaurs: green skin. They can make for great heroes as well as anti-heroes.

Writing Prompt: Skinning Orcs (M)


1. Take a break from writing human protagonists and write from the POV (point of view) of an orc or some other normally grotesque, creepy, non-human entity and explore how misunderstood these creatures are. Step into their skin for a change, so to speak.

2. Use a character-building exercise like the one that follows to sum up this character’s strengths and weaknesses and create a personality that will be interesting to you. Consider things like:

-Name:
-Age:
-Gender:
-Interest (specifically not plot-related/normal life):
-Interest (plot-related):
-Job/Setting/Power:
-Secret from the past they don’t want others to know:
-Problem:

Here’s an example of a character Brandon Sanderson created in his BYU class last January using this method:
-Age & Gender: 28, female
-Interest (plot-related): Weapon smith
-Job/Setting/Power: Guardian of family/siblings
-Secret: Secretly wants to travel & map the world but feels tied down by family.
-Problem: Younger sister steals magic sword.

Remember that your character is an orc (or some other monster) for this exercise!

3. Pick a conflict (that also falls under the “problem” category above). Maybe instead of having a younger sister steal the magic sword, your orc protagonist is one of the few survivors of his/her race on another planet or magical realm, and has to get the magic skull book back to the skull tower before they’re skinned alive by the merciless elves/dwarves/aliens that care more about orcish head counts than orcish souls. Or maybe your orc simply wants lasic surgery. The possibilites are yours to explore.

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Sarah E. Seeley is a fantasy and horror author, and an affiliate member of the Horror Writers Association. She has a bachelor’s degree in geology and loves exploring the science of human origins.

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