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Thursday, June 20, 2013

12 Unusual Questions To Help With Character Creation and Development

There are many methods out there to help writers build characters.  Some involve what I like to call a Giant Form of Doom, and 100 things list, or other tools.  (For everything I've written on characters in the past, click here.)  While these tools are extremely helpful and are great ways to work on characterization, sometimes we just can't get into our character's head.  Sometimes, all it takes is a little push.  Maybe you're having trouble filling out a massive form, but one question could set you on the right track. 

For these situations, here is a list of questions you typically won't find on a standard character worksheet.  They can give a lot of insight into a character (and anyway, they're just fun).

I'll be using my two main characters from my work-in-progress novel, Mason and Everett, as examples.
  1. Which Hogwarts house would they be sorted into?  Did the Sorting Hat choose it right away, or was it more complicated?  Did the character have any input?  There a fairly decent quiz you can take as your character here, to determine house placement.  My character Everett is an obvious Gryffindor--he values honor, courage, and loyalty.  Mason is a bit tougher; I could see him in either Slytherin or Gryffindor.  Probably Slytherin, as he can be manipulative at times.
  2. If they committed a crime, what would it be?  For this, you aren't allowed to say "But my character would never commit a crime!"  No.  We must go deeper.  For example, Everett would never, in a million years, break a law.  He's the kind of person that feels massively uncomfortable jaywalking.  If he were to commit a crime, though, it would be trespassing, as he has a borderline-weird love for high places, and I could see him doing something dumb like climbing a huge hill and realizing, too late, that he's on someone's private property.
  3. Which Avenger is their favorite?  Don't laugh.  You can tell quite a bit about a person by their answer to this question.  (I'm not sure what to make of the fact that my reflex response to this question is "Tom Hiddleston".)  Everett is a huge Captain America fan (they're both Lawful Good), while Mason is more fond of Iron Man's trademark flashiness and wit.
  4. Star Wars or Star Trek?  Another timeless question.  Each has a different style, and sometimes the fandoms don't get along.  Both my characters are probably Star Wars guys. 
  5. If this character was in the Hunger Games, what would their strategy be?  Mason find the biggest group of tributes still allied with each other, and join them.  When the time was right, he'd turn on everyone at once.  Everett would take the Katniss approach and hide in a hole somewhere until the games were over.
  6. Your character is home alone with nothing else to do, so it's movie/TV show marathon time.  What do they watch?  I am a firm believer in the idea that what a person likes to watch/read/listen to says a lot about themselves, so what better way to get to know a character by what they'd watch?  If he was sure nobody would find out, Everett would have a Nicholas Sparks movie marathon, ending with The Notebook as a grand finale.  He might even throw Titanic into the mix.  Mason would go for action movies--maybe a James Bond marathon.
  7. Who is their celebrity crush?  Think about it--someone's celebrity crush can say a lot about them.  For example, some girls are attracted to Ryan Gosling's charm, or Benedict Cumberbatch's Britishness and jaguar-hiding-in-a-cello voice.  And then there's Tom Hiddleston.  I won't even go there.  Mason, for example, would like Jennifer Lawrence's ability to say the most honest things in the funniest way possible (and the fact that she has absolutely no "verbal filter").  Everett would be more fond of someone along the lines of Emma Watson.
  8. What about fictional character crush?  It's the same as having a celebrity crush, but...fictional.  Everett's would be Captain America someone like Daenerys Targaryen.  Strong, though with a sweet side she keeps mostly hidden (okay, he'd be totally intimidated by her, but...). 
  9. What music album best describes them?  Each different album has a slightly different feel to it, from a combination of the musical style, lyrics, and emotions that come across through the songs.  Mason, for example, could be represented by the emotional ambiguity and the haunted-by-the-past themes of Imagine Dragons' Night Visions.   
  10. What starter Pokémon do they choose?  What's their playing style?  Don't laugh at me.  Picking a starter Pokémon is serious business.  Mason would go right for the Charmander, a fiery little cutie that can also become kind of dangerous.  He'd train his Pokémon in small spurts, just enough to keep him moving along in the game.  Everett would probably go for the Bulbasaur, because he'd feel bad that less people picked it.  He'd spend hours training right at the start.
  11. Which house from A Song of Ice and Fire would they be part of?  I know a character can't control which house they're born into, but each family seems to have its own personality and values.  Everett, for example, would be a Stark, because he values honor, loyalty, and doing the right thing (incidentally, the things that tend to get the Starks killed all the time).  Mason could probably hold his own as a Targaryen--an outsider, but coming to reclaim what is "rightfully his".
  12. If they could travel to any period in time, future or past, where would it be?  This is less a personality question and more a personal preference question.  Still, it's fun to speculate.  Would your character rather go to the future, or the past?  Are they more curious about what is to come, or about reliving history?  Mason would go far, far into the future, just out of sheer curiosity.  Everett would go try to hitch a ride with a WWII fighter pilot or something.
Are there any offbeat questions you use to bring your characters to life

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  1. Haven't visited in a long time. (Do you even remember me? :O) But that's my fault if you don't. Anyways, I'm still reading your lovely blog and IN LOVE WITH YOUR NEW STORY IDEA. SO KEEP WRITING AND BEING EPIC.

    Just felt the caps were a nice touch there. :D

    1. Aww, thanks. I'm glad you like the blog and the story idea.

      And yes, I remember you! :) You keep writing and being epic as well!


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