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Do You Know how Your Characters Want to Die?

Over the last few weeks I’ve been wondering how I could make my characters stronger and more convincing. I eventually decided to create a set of questions to ask my characters, but couldn’t find a questionnaire that fit perfectly. I’ve singled out six (and there are a lot of them – I realise I’m not helping things by adding my own), and put together a set of questions based loosely on those.

I started out hoping for twenty questions, which turned into twenty-five, which turned into me trying to justify thirty and then forty. I arrived at thirty-five, and it’ll stay thirty-five.

character questionnaire 1

These are the six pages I looked at for inspiration – some of these list amazing questions I would never have thought to ask my characters (such as ‘Which colour evokes strong emotion?’ or ‘Which sound triggers a good/bad memory?’) and they are very worth checking out:

The Official NaNoWriMo Character Questionnaire

The 100 Most Important Things to Know About Your Character

30 Questions (Character Questionnaire)

Character Questionnaire

35 Questions to ask Your Character

10 Questions You Need to Ask Your Characters

It was hard to cut it down from the original sixty-something questions I ended up with, but I think I’ve narrowed it down to a good selection, and will use this questionnaire from now on for all character building purposes 😉

I’ve tried to put them into categories, starting with basics, then family and childhood, and finally delving into their personality. Feel free to rearrange things should you choose to borrow this list, and put your own spin on it 🙂

character questionnaire 2

1) What is their full name?

2) How old are they? How old are they mentally?

3) What do they look like? (Include all marks, such as scars, tattoos, wooden legs,…)

4) What kind of clothes are they most comfortable in? What kind of clothes make them uncomfortable?

5) Do they have any quirks, speech patterns, overused words,…?

6) Do they have any allergies, diseases, disabilities, mental health problems, phobias…?

7) What is in their pockets? What do they never leave their home without?

8) Have they ever been in love? What happened?

9) Do they have any special abilities?

10) Are they close to their family?
11) Did they have a happy childhood?
12) What is their earliest memory?

13) Are they honest?

14) What is their biggest secret? Why have they never told anyone?
15) Are they superstitious?

16) Do they have a sense of humour?

17) Do they think first, or act first?

18) Do they have any prejudices?

19) Do they argue, or avoid conflict?

20) Are they more comfortable to lead or to follow?

21) What are their pet peeves?

22) How do they cope in social situations? Do they act differently, or are they themselves?

23) What is their biggest fear?

24) What is their strength? Their weakness?

25) What is their deepest regret?

26) What do they want the most? What are they willing to do to get it?

27) What is their philosophy on life?

28) Are they religious?

29) Have they ever lost someone close to them? How did that loss affect them?

30) Are they holding onto something from the past?

31) What do they love most in life?

32) How do they want to die?

33) What is their most treasured possession?

34) Have they ever killed anyone? If yes – how do they feel about having killed? If no – under which circumstances would they kill?

35) Who would they turn to if they ever needed help desperately?

What character building methods do you use? Have you used questionnaires before, and did you find them helpful? What’s your favourite way of developing your characters? Grab a cookie (and some tea), and let’s chat!

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Published inA Writer's MusingsUncategorized

16 Comments

  1. Good list. I’ll bear this in mind…trouble with writing fantasy is folk either get killed off by treachery, big ‘orrible things, magiks, or wonderful heroic acts, so they usually don’t get much say in the matter, but this has set me thinking….

    • They don’t have to get their wish to know their preference 😉 A warrior-type character might want to die in the battle of a thousand slaughters, but might be backstabbed in an alley before he can defend himself. They don’t have to get what they want to know what they want 🙂

  2. I love the idea! I never really thought about questionnaires, but I never thought about writing so it makes sense. This post reminds me how hard and complex it is to create fully developed and interesting characters.
    How old are they mentally. I ask myself that question quite often, haha. I love knowing what is in someone’s pockets, it says a lot about someone. How do they want to die is an awesome question, but it requires quite a bit of thinking to answer it, I guess. I love the psychological aspect you must to consider when creating a character.

    • I hadn’t either, but this appealed to me 🙂
      I agree, knowing what’s in someone’s pockets says a lot about who they are. It wasn’t easy to cut down how many questions I had, but this one was always going to stay!
      Thank you, I’m so glad it got you thinking! I’m quite excited to fill this in for my characters 🙂

  3. These are all great questions for getting to know our characters better. 🙂 I have a list of questions that I work on for each character profile I create. (Some of them come from the Writer’s Digest post you linked to, actually!) I also follow a monthly blogging meme for writers called Beautiful People, where we answer 10 questions about one of our characters each month. That’s been very helpful and fun as well.

    Would you be interested in trying Beautiful People? I can give you the link to this month’s questions, if you’d like.

  4. I loved this post and gave me a lot to think about 🙂 Something I will definitely keep in my mind and look at in the future 🙂 Thank you for sharing 🙂

  5. I totally agree, there are so many lists out there on how to get to know your characters, but yours definitely helps. It’s the perfect balance between the thing of things a writer needs to know and the things the audience needs to know, so thank you!

    • Thank you! I possibly spent more time on putting these together than I should have done, but I wanted to be thorough and not cut a question I’d regret not having 🙂 I’m so glad you find it useful!

  6. What great questions, Sarina! I’ve been thinking of doing a similar thing, compiling questions from books and websites. This will be a great asset to me for sure!
    I’ve also been thinking of using prompts to inspire stories from my character’s backgrounds to get to better know them as well. But questions are a fun way to get there too!
    Thanks for sharing <3

    • Thank you! I hope it can be of use to you 🙂
      I’ve been using prompts for that, too. Since my book of prompts only gives me so much room, I don’t have the space to overthink it which is very useful! 😉

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