I’ve been writing seriously for four years. In the early days of my writing, I would sit in from of my computer with a story and write whatever popped into my head. Now that’s not bad in and of itself, but I had no clue as to who my characters were, how the story should be laid out not even a scene to work with. It was ugly and so were my stories.
I develop to at least have a name, gender, a race and perhaps an attitude, but little else. The who, what, and why of the character was beyond my thinking. However, over the years, I began to realize how often I had to stop because I was stuck on something particular about my character. Most of you know what I mean.
A few years back, I came across this lovely site, The ScriptLab. They have a section called creating characters where they offer a character questionnaire. It has helped me immensely with character development.
I made one for my latest story and use the character profiles daily. I would suggest making a complete detailed character profile for each of your main characters and a shorter version, for some of your minor characters, like best friends.
ScriptLab has a list of 50 in their questionnaire, but I decided to show just a few today.
35 Questions To Help You Create Your Character
1. How does your character think of their father/mother? What do they hate and love about him? What influence – literal or imagined – did the father/mother have?
2. Siblings? Who do they like? Why? What do they despise about them?
3. What type of discipline was your character subjected to at home? Strict? Lenient?
4. Were they overprotected as a child? Sheltered? Did they feel rejected or affection as a child?
5. What was the economic status of their family?
6. Is your character street-smart, book-smart, intelligent, intellectual, slow-witted?
7. How do they see themselves: as smart, as intelligent, uneducated?
8. How does their education and intelligence – or lack thereof – reflect in their speech pattern, vocabulary, and pronunciations?
9. Did they graduate? Highschool? College?
10. What is your character’s weaknesses? Hubris? Pride? Controlling?
11. Are they holding on to something in the past? Can he or she forgive?
12. How does your character react to stress situations? Defensively? Aggressively? Evasively?
13. Do they drink? Take drugs? What about their health?
14. Does your character feel self-righteous? Revengeful? Contemptuous?
15. Do they always rationalize errors? How do they accept disasters and failures?
16. Do they like to suffer? Like to see other people suffering?
17. How is your character’s imagination? Daydreaming a lot? Worried most of the time? Living in memories?
18. Are they basically negative when facing new things? Suspicious? Hostile? Scared? Enthusiastic?
19. What do they like to ridicule? What do they find stupid?
20. How is their sense of humor? Do they have one?
21. Is your character aware of who they are? Strengths? Weaknesses? Idiosyncrasies? Capable of self-irony?
22. What does your character want most? What do they need really badly, compulsively? What are they willing to do, to sacrifice, to obtain?
23. Does your character have any secrets? If so, are they holding them back?
24. How badly do they want to obtain their life objectives? How do they pursue them?
25. Is your character pragmatic? Think first? Responsible? All action? A visionary? Passionate? Quixotic?
26. Is your character tall? Short? What about size? Weight? Posture? How do they feel about their physical body?
27. Do they want to project an image of a younger, older, more important person? Do they want to be visible or invisible?
28. How are your character’s gestures? Vigorous? Weak? Controlled? Compulsive? Energetic? Sluggish?
29. What about voice? Pitch? Strength? Tempo and rhythm of speech? Pronunciation? Accent?
30. What are the prevailing facial expressions? Sour? Cheerful? Dominating?
The objective is to dig deep within, discovering a background history, personality, psychology, and current goals for a 3 dimensional character. One that will relate to your potential readers.
The ScriptLab also offers help from story development to making the perfect outline. I recommend this for any young or old writer looking to improve their skills.