(Originally posted at my blog at FannyFae.com )
This list is from some years ago. Some of you may remember the heady days when Livejournal was the place to experiment in writing all kinds of fiction. They have since moved to other sites such as Dreamwidth, Insanejournal, and PanHistoria, to name just a few. I know that some of us who work with Muses and characters all of the time sort of struggle to get a handle on them.
For those of us who are writers who work with fictional characters and muses, this list of character traits helps get them down on paper. One thing that I and others who work with characters or muses have noticed is that keeping a journal at hand to get a handle on the flood of information we get about them. Sometimes those characters will just throw information at us in a flourish and it’s easy to miss or forget those important details.
The following is a questionnaire that I compiled from several sources, most of them come from writing courses I have taken in college, or from books. This list is more exhaustive than most you will find online. Most of the questions below will apply to your character or muse, while others may be questions for you, the writer to answer. Have fun and play with it!
Place of Birth:
Hair Colour and Style:
Distinguishing Features (choose at least four):
Physical imperfections they would like to change:
Country of Origin:
Married / Divorced /Widowed:
(First, Second Third, etc. and how long for each)
Family Background / Lineage:
Father’s Current Status (Living or Deceased):
Mother’s Current Status (Living or Deceased):
Years of Schooling:
Major and Minor Studies in College (if applicable):
Grades achieved in school:
Special Occupational Training:
Skills, Abilities, and Talents (Name at least four):
Areas of Expertise (Name at least three):
Current Job or Occupation:
Moonlighting or Past Occupations:
Short-Term Goals (3-4):
Long-Term Goals (3-4):
Short-Term Needs (3-4):
Long-Term Needs (3-4):
Introvert or Extrovert?
Method of Handling Anger or Rage:
Bad Habits / Vices:
Pet Peeves / Gripes:
Things that Make Uncomfortable or Embarrass:
Most Painful Things in One’s Life:
Ever Been Arrested (if so, for what?):
Arrests, and Convictions: (list types of convictions & time served for them):
Political or Social Issues Important to your Character:
Opinion on Abortion:
Opinion on Environmental Issues:
Opinion LGBT Equality:
Opinion on Military Intervention:
Opinion on Progress:
Opinion on Crime and Gun Control:
Opinions Particular to Character:
What kind of government does your character live under? Democracy? Monarchy? Dictatorship? Theocracy? Do they support their government? Apathetic toward it? Rebelling against it?
Liberal, Conservative, Centrist, or Radical?
Do they have a sense of humor? If so what kind?
Physical Illnesses or Chronic Disorders:
Favorite TV Show(s):
Favorite Music / Favorite Band /Singer:
Favorite Travel Destination:
Why / How did they acquire them?
How Important Are They?
How do they treat pets? Wild animals, etc?
Drinks Alcohol? If so, how often?
Favorite Alcoholic Drink:
Favorite Food or Meal:
Favorite Book(s) and Author(s):
Diet (Rich, low fat, cholesterol, restaurant, etc):
Favorite Restaurant/Ethnic Food:
Posture and Movement: Walk, etc.:
What is the most attractive feature about your character?
What turns them on?
What turns them off?
Traumas, Psychological Scars from the Past:
Clothing Styles, favorite kind of clothes:
Favorite Pet Sayings / Words:
Speaking Style – do they have an accent? Describe it:
Are they loud or soft-spoken?
Philosophy on Life:
Close Friends – who and how many?:
What experiences shaped your character the most into who they are today?
Home – do they live in a house, apartment, condo, other? Describe what it’s like:
How is it decorated?
What is their neighborhood like?:
How do they travel? Is it by foot, car, horse or other?:
If they drive, do they drive fast or slow? Do they obey traffic and other laws?:
Major Problems that your character face. How do they intend to solve or overcome it?:
Minor Problems?: What and how to deal with them?:
Attitudes about Money:
Dancing? Do they know how? Do they enjoy it?
Do they like being outdoors or indoors most of the time?
If your character has a partner or spouse, how do they get along with each other?Children?
Do they have any children?
Do they get along with their neighbors?
How do they deal with those who are higher in society or more successful than they are?
How do they deal with those who are lower in society or less successful?
Sleep Patterns: Do they sleep well? Fitfully? Not at all? Who do they sleep with?
When do they get up in the morning?
What awakens them? Is it an alarm clock? Rooster? Dog, Wife or Parent? Kids?
What do they do normally eat for breakfast? Do they read the paper? Talk to spouse or children? Rush out the door?
Do they read the paper? Talk to spouse or children? Rush out the door?
What is your character’s normal routine around dressing? Is it difficult? Easy? Meticulous?
Does the morning fill your character with anticipation or dread?
Does your character like their job or hate it? Do they give their work honest attention or avoidance?
Would He or She rather be doing something else?
If so, What?
How long and hard is the work day
Do they stop for lunch?
Eating what typically?
Does He or She Enjoy the Meal?
What does it Consist of?
What Goes on During Dinner? (Conversation? Fighting? Reading?)
Who Cleans up?
What does your Character do on a typical Evening?
How Much Does He or She Enjoy it?
What Would they prefer to be doing?
Why Doesn’t He or She Do That?
What id the evening atmosphere like?
Bedtime: Does he or she go to bed consistently at the same time?
When does bedtime occur at a different time?
Do they fall asleep right away?
If No What is He doing in the meantime? Reading? Watching TV? Sex? Tossing and Turning?
How Much do they enjoy this activity
Does He or She dream a lot, little or never?
Are most of his or her dreams scary, pleasant, sexual, etc?
Is any dream that they have a recurring one? What is it about?
What is his or her earliest memory?
If they were to suddenly become much richer, what he or she do with the money?
What is his or her stated dream in life?
What does he or she really long for?
What event are they most afraid of possibly happening?
Who does he or she in their wildest deepest soul really love best in the whole world?
What would he or she be willing to die for if anything?
What does he or she believe about God or the Divine?
What do they believe is the purpose of life?
Do they believe in an afterlife?
What does he or she actively work to gain or keep or protect – or not?
Do they merely say is important, but actually invest time and emotion in – money, fame, family, love, country, revenge, etc.?
How would he or she describe himself or herself if totally honest?
In a single word, how would YOU the writer sum up this character/muse’s attitude toward the world, interested, optimistic, defeated, Exploitive, compassionate dissatisfied, power mad, controlling, happy, etc. ?Would your character or muse agree with your assessment?
Would your character or muse agree with your assessment?
Why or Why not?
Do you like your character or muse as a person?
“Dynamic Character”: How to Create Personalities that Keep Readers Captivated” by Nancy Kress, 1998, Writer’s Digest Books
“Building Believable Characters” by Marc McCutcheon, 1996, Writer’s Digest Books
“Getting Into Character” Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn from Actors” by Brandilyn Collins, 2002, John Wiley & Sons