10 Questions To ask Your Characters

By on April 27, 2016
10 Questions To ask Your Characters - Writer's Life.org

Character development is important in any novel, and creating characters that are layered, interesting and alluring are one  element of your book that will make readers love it.

Without interesting characters, novels fall flat on their feet. Readers want to be able to emotionally invest in the characters they are reading about. They want to feel what they feel, be touched by their stories and be rooting for them (or not if they are a villainous character) come the end of the story.

The point is they need to care, be it good or bad, and without that it will be very difficult for them to engage with your story or want to read anything else you have written.

So how do you write great characters?

You've got to know them. Really know them. You characters should live inside your head and you should understand them fully. Getting to know your characters is imperative, and while much of what you will learn about them may not reach the pages of your book, making sure you spend time with them, study them, and know what they would do or say in any situation means that it will be so much easier for you to write them.

The best way to get to know your characters is to ask them questions. You can write down their answers or simply ask them in your head and make sure you have a clear answer from them.

The important point to remember that this is all part of your research and background study. You need to know your characters backstory, and every little mundane detail about how they live their lives. This doesn’t mean you need to write all of this down in your book. As Stephen King wisely said:

“The most important things to remember about back story are that (a) everyone has a history and (b) most of it isn’t very interesting.” —Stephen King

Unless a characters backstory somehow drives the action forward, or is crucial information that the reader must know then leave out the long descriptions. By this I mean explaining a character and where they came from in great detail, or telling us right away how many times they've been in love, or what they like for dinner etc.  If you know your character well enough this will come out more naturally here and there in the narrative anyway.

With this in mind, here are 10 questions to ask your characters to get to know them better

1. How old are they and do they act their age? Do they mind being that old or are they clinging to their youth? Perhaps they are old before their time?

2. What was their childhood like? How do they get on with their relatives? Are their parents still alive, and if not what happened?

3. What kind of relationships do they have with others? Do they have a partner, and if so is it a happy relationship? Do they have lots of friends or are they more of a recluse?

4. What hobbies and passions do they have? Find out what they love to do.

5. What makes them happiest?

6. What makes them most afraid?

7. What makes them angry?

8. What was the best moment of their lives? What was the worst?

9. Their biggest secret? and who knows it?

10. Can you describe them in one word?

These questions will help you get a true sense of your character, their past and who they want to be. Knowing this, and really believing it will help shape your character.

Keep your questions and answers close by so when you are writing scenes for your character - this way you can use them to refer to and make sure your character remains consistent, authentic and full of life.

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

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