Saturday, October 06, 2007

Why are you?

hagrid.jpgI was searching for a weekly tip and came across a page on creating characters. It's a pretty good page, actually, but one piece of advice made me realize why so many character questionnaires feel flat to me: it's because the questions ask what rather than why.

The author suggests reverse engineering a character. Go through a favorite book and write down the characteristics of your favorite characters. Write questions that would prompt the descriptions as a response. Then use those questions to interview your own character: create three responses for each question.

One of the responses was, "Hagrid is a large man, so big he must be part giant." A very interesting answer! But the question the article's author came up with is, "What is this character's physical size?" Um, large? It just doesn't lead your mind down interesting paths.

But a question like "Why are you the size you are?" can bring out rich details from a character's past. "Because I'm half giant," is a much more interesting answer than "Really big." Though "15 feet," or however large Hagrid is, is intriguing, it obviously leads to, "Why are you 15 feet tall." Might as well begin with the why!

The page is Creating Characters from Scratch.

The reverse engineering process is described towards the end of the article.
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