One of the best ways to get to know your characters is to ask questions about them. Many writers do this as a kind of homework before they actually start writing a story. The more you know your characters, the fuller they will be. This might also make your story easier to write. The following questionnaires may be downloaded so you can work with the actual documents.
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Character Questionnaire 1
This questionnaire is found in Gotham Writers’ Workshop’s Writing Fiction.
You might start with questions that address the basics about a character:
• What is your character’s name? Does the character have a nickname?
• What is your character’s hair color? Eye color?
• What kind of distinguishing facial features does your character have?
• Does your character have a birthmark? Where is it? What about scars? How did he get them?
• Who are your character’s friends and family? Who does she surround herself with? Who are the people your character is closest to? Who does he wish he were closest to?
• Where was your character born? Where has she lived since then? Where does she call home?
• Where does your character go when he’s angry?
• What is her biggest fear? Who has she told this to? Who would she never tell this to? Why?
• Does she have a secret?
• What makes your character laugh out loud?
• When has your character been in love? Had a broken heart?
Then dig deeper by asking more unconventional questions:
• What is in your character’s refrigerator right now? On her bedroom floor? On her nightstand? In her garbage can?
• Look at your character’s feet. Describe what you see there. Does he wear dress shoes, gym shoes, or none at all? Is he in socks that are ratty and full of holes? Or is he wearing a pair of blue and gold slippers knitted by his grandmother?
• When your character thinks of her childhood kitchen, what smell does she associate with it? Sauerkraut? Oatmeal cookies? Paint? Why is that smell so resonant for her?
• Your character is doing intense spring cleaning. What is easy for her to throw out? What is difficult for her to part with? Why?
• It’s Saturday at noon. What is your character doing? Give details. If he’s eating breakfast, what exactly does he eat? If she’s stretching out in her backyard to sun, what kind of blanket or towel does she lie on?
• What is one strong memory that has stuck with your character from childhood? Why is it so powerful and lasting?
• Your character is getting ready for a night out. Where is she going? What does she wear? Who will she be with?
Download Character Questionnaire 1 in Word .doc format.
Character Questionnaire 2
This questionnaire was invented by the noted French author Marcel Proust. These questions are frequently used in interviews so you may want to pretend you’re interviewing your characters.
• What do you consider your greatest achievement?
• What is your idea of perfect happiness?
• What is your current state of mind?
• What is your favorite occupation?
• What is your most treasured possession?
• What or who is the greatest love of your life?
• What is your favorite journey?
• What is your most marked characteristic?
• When and where were you the happiest?
• What is it that you most dislike?
• What is your greatest fear?
• What is your greatest extravagance?
• Which living person do you most despise?
• What is your greatest regret?
• Which talent would you most like to have?
• Where would you like to live?
• What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
• What is the quality you most like in a man?
• What is the quality you most like in a woman?
• What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
• What is the trait you most deplore in others?
• What do you most value in your friends?
• Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
• Whose are your heroes in real life?
• Which living person do you most admire?
• What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
• On what occasions do you lie?
• Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
• If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
• What are your favorite names?
• How would you like to die?
• If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
• What is your motto?
Download Character Questionnaire 2 in Word .doc format.