The best characters have vibrant lives that exist both on the page and off. And Writer’s Relief knows that one of the best ways to learn more about your own character’s inner life is by freewriting or brainstorming using the following topics. This Q&A-style interview with your characters will lead you to the deep revelations that foster more believable characterization.
Describe Your Character’s Physical Traits
- Eye color
- Hair color
- Skin tone
- Athletic abilities
- Physical challenges
- Favorite physical trait
- Least favorite physical trait
- How character sees his or her own looks
What Are Your Character’s Values And Priorities?
Sort these values in order of importance to your character.
- Religious values
- Personal happiness and satisfaction
- Money/financial solvency
- Family ties/responsibilities
- Looks/personal appearance
- Luxuries (fancy cars, large homes, etc.)
- Giving to others/strangers/community
- Political involvement
- Romance/love life
- Reputation within the community
- Professional aspirations
- Creative fulfillment
- Fun and games/kicking back
Brainstorm Or Freewrite About These Topics Related To Your Character’s Backstory
- Favorite childhood memory
- Least favorite childhood memory
- Socioeconomic situation as a child
- Socioeconomic situation now
- Cultural/regional elements of upbringing
- Relationship with mother/parent/guardian
- Relationship with father/parent/guardian
- Relationship with siblings
- Academic track record
- Childhood career aspirations
- Actual career path
- Deepest social insecurity (and the moment it was born)
- Biggest fear/phobia (and the moment it was born)
- First crush/love
- Childhood best friend
No Time Like The Present: Describe Your Character’s Life Right Now
- Financial situation
- Living situation
- Romance situation
- Professional situation
- Dietary preferences
- Physical challenges
- Family life situation
- Favorite things to do when not busy
The Or Game: How Would Your Character Answer These Questions
The OR game is about making instinctive, split-second judgment calls. No explaining, deliberating—or saying “and.” Sometimes, characters come to life from the smallest details. Your answers to these seemingly frivolous questions about your character’s preferences may actually surprise you with new facets of his or her personality.
- Stay in or go out?
- Beach or mountains?
- DIY or hire help?
- Winter, spring, summer, or fall?
- Lake or pool?
- Museum or concert?
- Fight or flee?
- Speak up or keep mum?
- Apologize or pretend it didn’t happen?
- Five minutes late or five minutes early?
- Half empty or half full?
- Kiss up or kiss off?
- Home-cooking or gourmet?
- Plastic, wood, or metal?
- Book or movie?
- Minimalism or max it out?
- Traveling or settling in?
- Tent or hotel?
- Crowds or solitude?
- Breakfast: skip or savor?
- First dates: Love or tolerate?
- Roses or sunflowers?
- Text or email?
- Paper clips or staples?
- Vanilla or cinnamon?
- Heights or depths?
- Print book or e-book?
- Custom frames or Scotch tape?
- Dogs or cats?
- RSVP with guest or decline with regret?
- Break or bend?
Now That You Know All About Your Characters…
If you want to write characters that readers will never forget, be sure YOU don’t forget any details you’ve learned about your characters! Here are our best tips for keeping track of important character-building details that will make your story’s population feel well-rounded and real.
Question: Add your character interview ideas to our list via our comments section!
Thank you for your thought-provoking articles. They help to keep me grounded in my writing with interesting side trips.
This list definitely creates the ability for writers to bring their characters to a new level of awesome. Thank you for sharing such an insightful, yet beautifully simplistic, list with all of us. ☺