Questions help you find out about your characters; lists of them can be found everywhere on the internet. Try these from NaNoWriMo (Googledoc).

I first found out about question sheets in my Creative Writing Course. When I did a workshop at Noirwich, we were invited to answer a shorter set, but more pithy, and share it with the group. I was at a disadvantage since I was writing scifi, and it was a crime writers event. Hey, there’s crime in scifi, you know!

Questions of fact

You need to record these so when you write the fifth book about them (or just the third), you remember what you’ve said or implied (or assumed) before. Starting with full name, maiden or previous name(s)! Hair colour, size, weight, eye colour, ticks (unchangeable habits), birthplaces, current address, job & training, family names (oh, I had forgotten those!)… Everything that is factual about your character that you can’t change (Dolores and Maggie both change their hair colour, but Lars tends to notice).

Questions of preference

These cover anything that can change, but they return to: favourite clothes/style, foods, partner characteristics, hobbies and interests, even which side of the bed they get out of if relevant. Its a useful place to put habits if they aren’t very strong. Lars likes to go running. It’s a habit. Pete pulls his ear or his moustache when worried; that’s a tick.

character questions
Pete and the Swede as ‘My Little Pony’ characters! I can’t remember where I found this game now.

Questions of personality

These are the things that if you get right, will build their personality and help you maintain it. Especially things you are never likely to use in a book. This is where the lists get really long, and may overlap with the above. My favourite questions are:

  • When bored will…
  • What drives them?
  • What motivates them?
  • Fears
  • Internal conflicts…
  • External conflict…
  • Connections to other characters [useful for later reveals]
  • Surprising thing about them
  • Strengths
  • Flaws
  • Voice: especially if they use different voices with different people
  • Emotions (especially, what makes them show their emotions)
  • Mysteries: things they like to keep secret
  • Secrets; things they would rather die than reveal (sometimes even to themselves)
  • Ability to surprise: what surprises other people about them
  • Consistency… are they?
  • Small quirks
  • If they had a dog it would be a… (I think this is one of the most useful things to remind you of your characters!) Pete’s would be a mutt, Lars would have a greyhound or saluki.
  • Other pet?
  • Favourite book

There are lots of lists to choose from. Find one, and fill it in for your main characters, and then do shortened ones for your secondary characters.

Most interesting Question?

At the Noirwich workshop one question was “What would they be doing at 11 am on a Saturday morning?”

What would your favourite baddie be doing then?

Noirwich crime festival

Questions to ask your Characters #AtoZChallenge2021

9 thoughts on “Questions to ask your Characters #AtoZChallenge2021

  • 20 April, 2021 at 1:25 pm

    That’s a good list. I have a character sheet I use that covers most of that. It’s easy to forget by that third book.

  • 20 April, 2021 at 7:34 pm

    When I did my first NaNoWriMo, I created a genealogy chart for my protagonist and added notes for each recurring character in my mystery series. It has served me well over the years.
    Also, Jemima, thanks for adding to my Scavenger Hunt list for Q!

    • 20 April, 2021 at 9:01 pm

      The genealogy chart for my Princelings series was essential! I love recurring characters, but they do need to be fleshed out 🙂
      Glad to be of service!

  • 20 April, 2021 at 9:52 pm

    A really great list that I will keep in mind, Jemima. Hugs to you and the boys.

  • 23 April, 2021 at 7:18 am

    I have not employed it on my current book because the action is all contiguous but my first, yet to be completed novel, is much more complex and so I made a spreadsheet for character’s timeliness. I hadn’t thought of listing characteristics though – very useful… Thanks!

  • 23 April, 2021 at 7:23 am

    I saw the title of your book about your father. We just spent 6 months of the winter in Elounda, Crete where Imperial Airways used to land flying boats en route to Egypt. There is a small park along the shore which is still called The Refuelling Depot.

    • 23 April, 2021 at 10:29 am

      At some stage he simply mentioned a ‘via’ place between Brindisi and Alexandria – it took me a while to find it on an atlas, but there it was. Fascinating to know there’s still a relic of the past there! Thanks.

  • Pingback:Reflections on the A to Z Challenge 2021 | Sue's Trifles

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