Leia here with another post by my intern, Kuro. I asked her to write a post on something writing related and she put together this awesome reference list about developing your characters. For me, characters make a story. They are the most important part so I was thrilled to see how much thought she put into this and that she just gets it. So go Kuro! We’d love some comments if you want to weigh in on how you create your characters.
I’ve prepared this basic questionnaire in order to assist people of all writing levels with character development. Although there is usually more to it, this form can prove to be quite useful when creating an outline of your character.
(I like having a name with meaning, and not an obvious one either. For example: Adlai. This is a name of a character in one of my older stories. It is of Hebrew origin, and it means “Justice of God”. Of course, you may have to do some research beforehand, but that’s alright. Take your time.)
Zodiac Sign (optional):
(A zodiac sign gives the reader a notion of the character’s birthday without the author having to worry about choosing a precise date. Although I don’t usually do this, I’ve noticed that many writers fancy choosing a zodiac sign.)
(You can be more creative than you think with gender. Maybe they are a male that unintentionally gets confused for a female constantly? It’s fun to have ‘trap’ characters sometimes. It can add humor to the story when its needed.)
(Talk about this persons parents, their siblings (if any), and their overall relationship with their family. I think that its better to describe it in good detail rather than just “its bad/good”, but it’s your choice. It may not even be necessary depending on the plot of your story anyway.)
(What kind of school they went to and how this experience was for them? If your character has a rather impressive IQ, it would be a good time to mention that here.)
(The personality of a character is my personal favorite part of the character development process. You’d think that there aren’t many different traits you could build this character with, but that’s where creativity comes in. It’s best to make a character with little clichés. )
Here are a few general traits that are usually worth explaining (optional, but at least do two):
Are they (a/an)…
Sensitive or analytical (do they make decisions based mostly on emotions or on logic)?
If a reason why exists, explain it:
Cautious or daring? If a reason why exists, explain it:
Optimist, pessimist, realist, maybe other? If a reason why exists, explain it:
Extrovert or introvert? If a reason why exists, explain it:
It gets even better…
(Please be careful with this….catastrophes are born in this area. Give a character too much perks and they become severely unlikeable.)
(You should try to keep a good balance between the gifts and the shortcomings, but you must be careful here too. Compensating superhuman gifts with devilish flaws can become just as disastrous.)
Style of speech:
(This may not seem too important, but it actually reflects the personality, the educational level, the social status, etc. of the character. Do they speak clearly, or have a stutter? Do they tend to be profane, or prefer to be formal? What is there tone of voice?)
Life philosophy (optional):
(You can pick a quote for this if you want to.)
(If relevant, this also includes the character’s relationship with other belief systems.)
(Be careful with this one.)
View on relationships:
(Try to give an explanation for these views, if possible. Take your time.
There are people who adore solitude and think of relationships as prisons, and sometimes there are extremely dependent people who always need someone by their side. There are all kinds of options here.)
There is a whole spectrum between straight and gay, and I have characters in many of those spots. Knowing the difference between bi-curiousness, heteroflexibility and bisexuality – and knowing which characters are in each group – makes a huge difference when you’re writing about their sexualities. If not straight, is your character in the closet? If yes, why? If not, how did he/she come out?
Past relationships (optional):
(Optional…and awkward) How does he/she view sexual experiences? What is the importance of sex for this character? This can range anywhere from waiting until marriage, to thinking it isn’t a big deal, to having a severe aversion towards everything about it:
Are they a social person? Explain:
(Remember. There is such thing as “social introverts”, as well as “antisocial extroverts”. You must be somewhat familiar with the spectrum of different personalities before making a decision here.)
How important are friends to them?
Who are their most salient friends? Write a little bit about how they met, the things they went through, and what made them become so close.And if necessary, what tore their friendship apart:
(Note: “Salient”=most important/most noticeable.)
(Specify please. Which friends are most prominent? Perhaps the oldest, the closest, the one(s) who never left, maybe even the controversial friend that disappeared from your characters life, but remains missed regardless?)
This section is required if your character has a career.
(You don’t need to list an entire resume here, but it’s useful to know.)
Attitude towards current job:
(Is it your character’s dream job? Are they working towards a bigger goal? Is he/she doing it because they have no choice/is it forced labor?)
(OPTIONAL) Attitude towards current co-workers and bosses:
(Optional. Apply if useful) Salary:
I love this part.
What are their….
Greatest phobias, and why? Explain:
Life goals/dreams. Explain:
(If relevant) Compulsions/obsessions:
(Can range anywhere from strange, to just plain disturbing.)
(Be cautious here.)
Do they want to change anything about their current life?
Do they want to change anything about their appearance?
(Please explain this as thoroughly as possible.)
Hair color and style:
(You can use a reference here if you want too.)
Eye color/eye shape:
(I can use myself as an example. I twirl my hair…a lot. If you find it relevant, go ahead and explain how the character feels about their habits.)
(Our clothing sometimes reflects who people are more than they realize.)
Athletic? Average? Dangerously thin? Explain if necessary:
Extra details (everything here is optional)
Night owl or early bird?
Light or heavy sleeper? Sleepwalking and insomnia can be added here:
(Tip: Try to be as general as possible in the next few questions. For example, unless your character has a particular taste for a specific flavor of Sushi, you’ll be just fine with saying “Sushi” or “Japanese cuisine”.)
Smoker/drinker/drug user? (College experimenting counts): _
OOC trait: Everyone has an out-of-character trait. What is your characters? Explain if necessary:
***Special thanks to Kuro for providing this. She definitely gave me a few things to think about, and hopefully you found it useful as well. Anything else you want to add? Leave in the comments below! :)