If you search for character sketches, questionnaires, worksheets or the like, you are bound to find hundreds of options to chose from. Some are short and to the point, while others go on for page after page. I think in general, as writers or authors, whichever you prefer, we know we need to have certain points about them. Physical description, age or age range, gender, environment, and general background history to name a few.
Maybe you have your own set of questions you ask. Maybe it is a combination of questions you found and ones you decided you needed to know in process of writing the actual story. (It happens- sometimes you really don’t know what they would do or say until they are faced with it.) Maybe you have carried those questions on to characters that came after.
I think it is always a good idea to ask questions that most likely won’t ever be answered in the story. For example: Are they capable of murder and for what reasons would they be? Well, this very well might apply, based on the plot and type of story you are writing, but sometimes it won’t.
But why might you ask would I need to know this? My novel is about a bunch of old school friends catching up at their 10 year reunion.
Well, lets say when your character was in college, her college bff and her went to a frat party. She was tired and had an exam in the morning so she leaves but her friend decided to stay. The next morning after her exam she is unable to reach her friend. A few days later, she is found dumped near a river. She had been raped, beaten and left for dead.
So now to answer the question, lets say she would murder a rapist if she caught them in the act. But that she would not murder someone accused or even someone proven guilty of it, only if she physically witnessed it. Will she witness a rape at the reunion? Possibly, but most likely not. But how would she react, when she sees people treat others with disrespect in a sexual manner? She is bound to see people giving others unwanted looks, unwanted and possibly unwanted touches.
I currently have a list of 15 not so normal questions I ask about each of my main characters in addition to the normal questions I try to answer. To be honest, I don’t always have answers before I write. But more about that another time.
I have included The Not So Normal Character Questionnaire, here that you can print out, and also listed them below.
- What would really make their blood boil?
- What act or instance would cause them to hit first?
- Would they ever: lie, cheat, steal, murder or betray? If so, for what reason(s)?
- Are they in any way a bully?
- Can they accept blame?
- Are they conscious that their actions have consequences? Are they willing to face those consequences?
- Are they sympathetic, empathetic and/or compassionate?
- Are they accepting of others? To what level of difference is that acceptance?
- Do they hold grudges? At what limits?
- Do they chose their battles or insist on fighting them all? If all, is it a drama lover type deal or a must always prevail deal?
- Do they avoid conflict as much as possible?
- Favorite guilty pleasure?
- Go to beverage of choice?
- Level of intelligence? Type, if any, of education?
- Most emotional experience to date? (Good and bad)
I know number 13 doesn’t seem to fit in the other 14 questions, but it was an extremely important piece of information I needed to know about a character for my current novel. And I know a lot of them are dark or extreme. We might not even be able to answer all of these about ourselves, and maybe you can’t answer them about your character. It’s okay.
Do you have any not so normal questions you ask about your character during the creation process? Or have you heard of any others? If you’re willing to share, I’d love to hear them.