99 Questions to Ask Your Character

Characters need to live and breathe through your story which, in turn, brings your story to life. If they don’t have odd quirks, a childhood, a family, nor any fears, hopes and dreams, then they are just letters on a page. Even with a well-developed protagonist your words will fall flat if your supporting cast is weak.

Recently I ran into a rough patch that I had struggled to get past. In my mind’s eye I had all my characters figured out. I could picture them in my head, yet when they landed on the page their form lost color and dimension. A fellow author suggested I sit and do a full character study of the four largest characters in the story.

As soon as I sat down to do this I was at a loss for the questions that needed to be answered. Thank goodness for the internet. I did several searches under “character traits” to see what came up. I found quite a few sites that listed many questions I could ask my character, and each site had some main themes as well. As I dug deeper I found that there was also great social media questionnaires that took my questioning to interesting places.

After a while it became quite overwhelming and I ended up with well over 200 questions that could be asked of my book characters. Some questions were the same, just phrased differently, and some were edging on TMI so I edited the list down to 99 of my favorites.

How does this work? Just put yourself in the mind, and body of your character then answer them as your character would. The questions are not in any particular order. I found that this randomness helps to generate new ideas and new ways to look at a character. Of course, not all characters need such in-depth exploration, but as a writer, you get to choose which questions need to be answered to bring each of your characters to life. Have fun!!

1. Describe yourself. Hair color, height, weight, eye color, scars, marks, figure, etc.
2. Where were you born and raised? Where did you go to school?
3. Who are the members of your family?
4. If you could meet anyone on this earth, who would it be?
5. What are you obsessed with?
6. What do you think about most?
7. What does your latest text message from someone else say?
8. Do you sleep with or without clothes on?
9. What’s your strangest talent?
10. Girls______________. (finish the sentence); Boys____________. (finish the sentence)
11. Ever had a poem or song written about you?
12. Do you have any strange phobias?
13. Ever stuck a foreign object up your nose?
14. What’s your religion?
15. If you are outside, what are you most likely doing?
16. What was the last lie you told?
17. Do you believe in karma?
18. What is your biggest fear?
19. What is your greatest weakness; your greatest strength?
20. Who is your celebrity crush?
21. Have you ever gone skinny dipping?
22. How do you vent your anger?
23. Do you have a collection of anything?
24. Do you have a secret? What is it?
25. What was your childhood like?
26. Do you prefer talking on the phone or video chatting online?
27. Are you happy with the person you’ve become?
28. What’s a sound you hate; sound you love?
29. What’s your biggest “what if”?
30. Do you believe in ghosts? How about aliens?
31. Do you have a phobia/fear? What is it? Where did it come from?
32. Stick your right arm out; what do you touch first? Do the same with your left arm.
33. Smell the air. What do you smell?
34. What’s the worst place you have ever been to?
35. Choose East Coast or West Coast?
36. Most attractive singer of your opposite gender?
37. To you, what is the meaning of life?
38. Define Art.
39. Do you believe in luck?
40. Do you drive? If so, have you ever crashed?
41. What is your happiest memory? Saddest?
42. What does your house look like?
43. What was the last book you read?
44. What is your favorite scent/smell?
45. Do you have any nicknames?
46. What was the last movie you saw?
47. What’s the worst injury you’ve ever had?
48. Have you ever caught a butterfly?
49. What does your bedroom look like?
50. Do you have any obsessions right now?
51. What’s your sexual orientation?
52. Ever had a rumor spread about you?
53. Do you believe in magic?
54. Do you tend to hold grudges against people who have done you wrong?
55. Do you save money or spend it?
56. What’s the last thing you purchased?
57. Love or lust?
58. Greatest regret?
59. What is your most treasured thing?
60. In a relationship?
61. How many relationships have you had?
62. Does anyone hate you? Why?
63. Can you touch your nose with your tongue?
64. Where were you yesterday?
65. Is there anything pink within 10 feet of you?
66. Favorites: places, meals, things to do, outfits, animal?
67. What is your secret weapon to get someone to like you?
68. Who is your best friend?
69. What did you do last week?
70. What are your friends like? What are their best qualities?
71. What is your heritage?
72. If you could change yourself in any way, what would you change?
73. What were you doing last night at 12 AM?
74. What are you most passionate about?
75. Are you the kind of friend you would want to have as a friend?
76. You can only have one of these things; trust or love.
77. What’s a song that always makes you happy when you hear it?
78. In your opinion, what makes a great relationship?
79. How can I win your heart?
80. What are you most afraid of?
81. What is the single best decision you have made in your life so far?
82. What size shoes do you wear?
83. What would you want written on your tombstone?
84. What is your favorite word?
85. Give me the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word; heart.
86. What is a saying you say a lot?
87. What’s the last song you listened to?
88. Basic question; what’s your favorite color/colors?
89. What is your current desktop picture?
90. If you could press a button and make anyone in the world instantaneously explode, who would it be?
91. What would be a question you’d be afraid to tell the truth on?
92. You accidentally eat some radioactive vegetables. They were good, and what’s even cooler is that they endow you with the super-power of your choice! What is that power?
93. You can re-live any point of time in your life. The time-span can only be a half-hour, though. What half-hour of your past would you like to experience again?
94. You can erase any horrible experience from your past. What will it be?
95. You have the opportunity to sleep with the music-celebrity of your choice. Who would it be?
96. You just got a free plane ticket to anywhere. You have to depart right now. Where are you gonna go?
97. Do you have any relatives in jail?
98. Have you ever thrown up in the car?
99. If the whole world were listening to you right now, what would you say?

52 Ways to Get Unstuck

52 Ways to Get Unstuck: Exercises to Break Through Writer's Block (52-Ways Book #1)52 Ways to Get Unstuck: Exercises to Break Through Writer’s Block by Chris Mandeville

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a fun, easy, and non-frustrating way to get un-stuck! I purchased Mandeville’s book only a month ago and it has already helped me out of several sticky spots. It is filled with tips and tricks that will help authors through those dry spells. Mandeville utilizes simple exercises that fit the needs of the novice to the seasoned writer. With chapter headings like, “Write Crap”, “Group Dating”, Nick a Name” and “Road Trip!” it is easy to see how fun can be put into a frustrating situation that many writers face. 52 Ways really gets the creative juices flowing again. It is a must for every writer’s toolbox.

View all my reviews

A Magic Helicopter

For the past half year or so I have been a member of Delve Writing. We meet virtually once a week and are a group of writers who support one another to achieve our individual writing goals.  Every week our moderator (I work with co-founder Aaron Brown) gives us some tasty treat for inspiration and then we dive into our goals and the challenges we face meeting those goals.  At the end of each session we “dig-in” on a single challenge that we have been hitting and pick it apart in an effort to find a solution or at least give the sufferer a glimmer of a solution.

This morning we had a lively session filled with ideas for a magical helicopter to fly all of us to the top of Mt Evans where we could attend Hogwarts and write wondrous books that sell themselves along with discovering the usefulness of a Feedback Loop*. One of the dig-ins was “How to Brainstorm with Yourself.” Most brainstorming sessions I have ever attended comprised of three to ten people in a conference room with the doors closed and gallons of coffee. The idea of brainstorming alone presents a unique problem that if you run out of ideas then there isn’t anyone else there to kick in a new thought or angle. What if you are trying to come up with an idea for a new story idea and you have no clue of what to write about in the first place?

This was the question posed to our group and it was so amazing to see the ideas flood our meeting providing quite a few resources for story ideas.  I haven’t had the time to check into all of these, but it is on my to-do list that, although never ending, I hope to get to next week.

  • Look for intense moments in life. Being born is about as intense of a moment as you can get in life and it is right next to watching a loved one die.  Do a little wandering through your life and pick out as many intense moments as you can find and write them down. These are just the beginnings of an idea list.
  • Ask yourself “if” questions. The questions need to be thought provoking or at least questions that lead to a more extensive answer.  No “yes or no” questions here…they don’t trigger ideas.  Some examples of leading questions might be: “If I’m the last person on the planet what would I see?” “If my car sailed over a bridge what would that moment between the bridge and the ground feel like?” “If a ghost came to me and asked for help, what would they need help with?”
  • Play with attractions. This is another part of your idea list. Write down one word bullets of things that you are attracted to.  Have you spent your free time rock climbing, skiing, or parasailing? Maybe you love wandering through art museums, antique shops, or garage sales. What sorts of things attract you?  What gives you a jolt of adrenalin? All these combined, or separate, can give color to a great scene or short story.
  • Pam McCutheon’s Brainstorming Kit. I have ordered her kit but haven’t received it yet. From what I understand this has flashcards with ideas on them.  You pull a card and write on that idea.  Once I get her kit and test it out I’ll have a new blog post for it.
  • Duo Trope’s Calendar. If you have never heard of Duo Trope then you are missing out. This resource for writers is chalk full of everything a writer needs for publishing.  There isn’t enough space here to go into all the details, but trust me when I say, “Check it out!”
  • Make an idea list. I am a list person. I have notebooks filled with to-dos, dones, and everything in between. I do have an idea list too.  It is a very simple handwritten bunch of scribbles that have every story idea I have ever considered. So many times I’ve thought of a great idea that I might consider writing about and as soon as I think of it I forget it. These days (my mind is as old as dirt) I forget many things faster than I can think them up so I have learned to write them down.  Now, when I haven’t a clue for a story I pull out my list and run through them to see if anything strikes my fancy.

Brainstorming is really just time spent with yourself pondering the next great American novel, or the next great short story by YOU. On the other hand, it is nice to just grab a friend and take them out for coffee and toss around a few stray thoughts and see what floats to the top. Remember that you are the one who has to write your great novel so be sure your brainstorming sessions bring out the best in you.  Your story may take you on a helicopter ride to a magical land filled with ideas that float through the air waiting to be discovered by you. Pluck one of those ideas down and start writing.

*Note: Watch Delve’s blog for their exploration into a Feedback Loop – Coming Soon!