Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Character Questionnaire


Time to create a character (or 2 or 3).

The temptation will be to agnonize over the answers to create the perfect character.

To avoid that try creating 3:
  1. one that you'd love to write about
  2. one whose answers are the total opposite (the bad guy perhaps?)
  3. one just to goof around with (the plucky sidekick?)
If you don't know the answer to a question skip it or, even better, put down something wild! It's not carved in stone and it may spark some ideas that brings the character to life for you. (You can always toss it out at the end if it doesn't fit.)

There are 90 questions and I'll send them out 3 per day so you don't feel overwhelmed. If you skip a day or 10 days, don't sweat it. No one question is key. Just pick up again with that day's questions.

Day 1
  • What does he want more than anything in the world?
  • What one object would she grab if her house were on fire?
  • What secret does he hope is never revealed? Does anyone else know it?
Day 2
  • What does she fear most in the world? How far would she go to avoid it?
  • If she could have one object from his childhood back again, what would it be?
  • When faced with her worst enemy, what does she do?
Day 3
  • What piece of artwork does he have in a space he calls his own?
  • If she could only keep one photograph from her childhood, what would it be?
  • Your character walks into his home and sees blood on the floor? What's his first reaction?
Day 4
  • What hobbies or side interests are most important to her?
  • What does he always carry with him?
  • What does her bedroom look like?
Day 5
  • If he had a free day, what would he do?
  • She's been told she has a month to live. What would she do?
  • Make a list of all the things that are important to him, including principles, physical things, emotional things. Go back through the list and circle the things he'd be willing to fight or die for.
Day 6
  • What was her last nightmare? What was her last pleasant dream?
  • Whose forgiveness does he seek and why?
  • What does she daydream about?
Day 7
  • Who refuses to speak to him and why?
  • If she were told she was destined to fulfill a great prophecy, how would she react?
  • Who important in his life has died and how did he handle it?
Day 8
  • What does she feel about fate and destiny?
  • What scars does he have? What are the stories behind them?
  • What tattoos does she have? Why? If she doesn't would she? What would it be if she would?
Day 9
  • How would his parents describe him as a child and now?
  • Who is her best friend?
  • Who is his worst enemy?
Day 10
  • What one person does she most wish she didn't have to put up with, but feels she has to?
  • Who is his confidant?
  • Who did she give presents to on the last gift giving occasion? What did she give?
Day 11
  • What was his favorite gift that he received of all time? Who gave it to him?
  • Does she have a green thumb?
  • Does he have pets? Did he have a special pet as a child?
Day 12
  • Make up 3 book titles he read last year.
  • What does he do when stress builds up?
  • What’s her favorite retreat?
Day 13
  • Does she feel she has responsibilities that are more than she can handle? What is she doing about them?
  • What did she want to be when she grew up?
  • What does he want to do but can’t?
Day 14
  • What was on her wish list when she was a child?
  • What is his secret dream?
  • What did her parents say to her that she’ll never forget?
Day 15
  • He has a box of things stashed away that he won’t get rid of. What’s in that box?
  • What is her worst flaw according to you? What does she think her worst flaw is?
  • What is his greatest strength according to you? What does he think his greatest strength is?
Day 16
  • What is her greatest regret in life? Does she intend to do something about it?
  • What major thing does he want to accomplish in life?
  • How does she feel about growing old?
Day 17
  • He has an award on his shelf. What’s it for? Does he feel he deserves it?
  • Has she ever struck someone in anger? How does she feel about that?
  • What makes him embarrassed?
Day 18
  • What makes her proud?
  • Does he still keep in touch with his childhood friends? Which ones? Why?
  • Write about her favorite birthday (or favorite holiday that went perfectly).
Day 19
  • Write about his worst birthday (or favorite holiday that went badly.)
  • What rule would she say is the most important to live by?
  • Is there anyone he despises?
Day 20
  • She has just received an envelope. It fills her with dread. What’s in it?
  • List 5 things that could motivate him to violence.
  • List 3 things that could motivate her to kill.
Day 21
  • What is his romantic history? Best? Worst?
  • What about her annoys others?
  • Does he like poetry?
Day 22
  • How would she describe her ideal mate? How would you?
  • If a spell turned him into the animal that most resembles his heart, what would he turn into?
  • What’s the strangest thing she ever did?
Day 23
  • What’s the luckiest thing that ever happened to him?
  • If she had unlimited wealth, what would she spend it on?
  • If he was a writer, what would he write?
Day 24
  • If she could be someone else, who would she be?
  • Describe the nature and intensity of his religious feelings?
  • What three adjectives best describe her inner nature? What three would she pick?
Day 25
  • What three adjectives best describe his outer nature? What three would he pick?
  • How does she expect to be treated differently than she treats others?
  • What sort of legacy does he wish to leave behind?
Day 26
  • What would she like written on her tombstone? What would others write?
  • Write an obituary for him.
  • What person has most influenced her development as an adult?
Day 27
  • Who were his heroes as a child?
  • What was the biggest lie she ever told?
  • Has he ever broken any laws? Why? Does he feel justified?
Day 28
  • What does she think is the most beautiful thing she’s ever seen?
  • What does he think is the ugliest thing he’s ever seen?
  • What does she think is her purpose in life?
Day 29
  • What trait most annoys him when he encounters it in others?
  • Does she feel responsible for anyone besides herself?
  • How well does he handle change?
Day 30
  • Does she have any artistic talent (writing, drawing, music)? Are they well developed or raw? Secret or public?
  • Does he swear?
  • How does she respond when unjustly accused of something?

Most character creation charts begin (and often are limited to) physical appearance but that's really the least important aspect of a character. These questions will help you get inside the psyche of your character to know what formed him and what makes him tick.

The 90 questions I chose are adapted from 365, Volume 1: 365 Character Questions for Writers and Roleplayers by Heather Grove. If you really like the idea, consider going there to download the full PDF and giving her a donation since she obviously put a lot of work into it! (There's a slightly different format at Character Questionnaire where the questions are grouped by category.)
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