Tuesday, February 15, 2011

10 Questions for your Characters

Getting to know your main characters can be a tricky business. If they're proving to be somewhat enigmatic, here are some questions (in no particular order) to ask yourself that may help.

10. Is their appearance important to them?

9. Are they happiest surrounded by people or by themselves?

8. What is their idea of a perfect day?

7. What is their first priority?

6. What are their strengths?

5. Who is the person they are closest to?

4. What is their greatest fault?

3. How well do they know themselves?

2. Do they believe people are naturally good?

1. What is their greatest fear?

There are, of course, many other questions you can ask. What questions do you use to help get under your characters' skins?


  1. Elspeth - Oh, I really like these questions! They do get to the essence of what a character is like. I also ask my characters what their "pet peeves" are. What really riles them up? Also what they're most proud of. That helps me know them better, too.

  2. I'm needing to learn more about one of my protags, so this comes in very handy. A great writing exercise is to pose these questions to your character directly, as if you're interviewing him/her.

    I usually ask them about their parents and where they grew up. It's really astounding how much I learn about them that way, especially in terms of behavior (and find out how screwed up they really are).

  3. Margot; It's always good to know our characters' pet peeves - such useful information when, as authors, we want to give the plot a good stir!

    Elisa; Knowing their backgrounds is very important and also knowing how they feel about those backgrounds - proud, ashamed, resigned, etc.

  4. Great questions. I ask a lot of these, but I haven't asked if they believe people are naturally good. That's a great question because it colors all their other attitudes.

  5. Very useful questions, thank you.

  6. Carol; It does. You'll be amazed where the answer leads.

    Dorte; I'm glad you find them useful! These types of questions have helped me out of sticky problems more than once.

  7. Nice questions to figure out a little more about our characters! Sometimes they'll tell me about themselves and sometimes I have to drag it out of them!


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