Character Questionnaire: 50 Things You Need to Know About Your Characters
By Michael Schilf · January 21, 2010
How well do you know your characters? Answer this character questionnaire to find out.
Character development is hard, but you know what’s harder? Developing multi-dimensional characters with depth and reliability. How do you even start that process, though? What kinds of aspects of your characters should you know in order to craft them well? This character questionnaire will help you ask important questions about the individuals in your stories so you can come to the answers that will have you creating dynamic characters in no time.
Take a look at the character questionnaire below. Answer as many of the 50 questions as you can, but if you aren’t sure about certain answers, skip them — just be sure to carve out some time to go back and wrestle with them.
- How does your character think of their father? What do they hate and love about him? What influence – literal or imagined – did the father have?
- Their mother? How do they think of her? What do they hate? Love? What influence – literal or imagined – did the mother have?
- Brothers, sisters? Who do they like? Why? What do they despise about their siblings?
- What type of discipline was your character subjected to at home? Strict? Lenient?
- Were they overprotected as a child? Sheltered?
- Did they feel rejection or affection as a child?
- What was the economic status of their family?
- How does your character feel about religion?
- What about political beliefs?
- Is your character street-smart, book-smart, intelligent, intellectual, slow-witted?
- How do they see themselves: as smart, as intelligent, uneducated?
- How does their education and intelligence – or lack thereof – reflect in their speech pattern, vocabulary, and pronunciations?
- Did they like school? Teachers? Schoolmates?
- Were they involved at school? Sports? Clubs? Debate? Were they unconnected?
- Did they graduate? High-School? College? Do they have a PHD? A GED?
- What does your character do for a living? How do they see their profession? What do they like about it? Dislike?
- Did they travel? Where? Why? When?
- What did they find abroad, and what did they remember?
- What were your character’s deepest disillusions? In life? What are they now?
- What were the most deeply impressive political or social, national or international, events that they experienced?
- What are your character’s manners like? What is their type of hero? Whom do they hate?
- Who are their friends? Lovers? ‘Type’ or ‘ideal’ partner?
- What do they want from a partner? What do they think and feel of sex?
- What social groups and activities does your character attend? What role do they like to play? What role do they actually play, usually?
- What are their hobbies and interests?
- What does your character’s home look like? Personal taste? Clothing? Hair? Appearance?
- How do they relate to their appearance? How do they wear their clothing? Style? Quality?
- Who is your character’s mate? How do they relate to them? How did they make their choice?
- What are your character’s weaknesses? Hubris? Pride? Controlling?
- Are they holding on to something in the past? Can he or she forgive?
- Does your character have children? How do they feel about their parental role? About the children? How do the children relate?
- How does your character react to stressful situations? Defensively? Aggressively? Evasively?
- Do they drink? Take drugs? What about their health?
- Does your character feel self-righteous? Revengeful? Contemptuous?
- Do they always rationalize errors? How do they accept disasters and failures?
- Do they like to suffer? Like to see other people suffering?
- How is your character’s imagination? Daydreaming a lot? Worried most of the time? Living in memories?
- Are they basically negative when facing new things? Suspicious? Hostile? Scared? Enthusiastic?
- What do they like to ridicule? What do they find stupid?
- What is their sense of humor? Do they have one?
- Is your character aware of who they are? Strengths? Weaknesses? Idiosyncrasies? Capable of self-irony?
- What does your character want most? What do they need really badly, compulsively? What are they willing to do, to sacrifice, to obtain?
- Does your character have any secrets? If so, are they holding them back?
- How badly do they want to obtain their life objectives? How do they pursue them?
- Is your character pragmatic? Think first? Responsible? All action? A visionary? Passionate? Quixotic?
- Is your character tall? Short? What about size? Weight? Posture? How do they feel about their physical body?
- Do they want to project an image of a younger, older, more important person? Does they want to be visible or invisible?
- How are your character’s gestures? Vigorous? Weak? Controlled? Compulsive? Energetic? Sluggish?
- What about voice? Pitch? Strength? Tempo and rhythm of speech? Pronunciation? Accent?
- What are the prevailing facial expressions? Sour? Cheerful? Dominating?