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Character Creation

28 Jan

I wrote this tutorial on character creation a LONG time ago. (2001 I think). It’s been up on Elfwood ever since, so I thought I should share it here. Periodically I get comments from others about how it helped them flesh out their characters.

A person is not only a personality. They are experiences, hopes, joys, passions, and foibles all rolled into one little package. For a writer, you must not only create these in yourself, but for several, if not hundreds of other people as well. Those with the fullest detail, I have found, are actually far easier to write about then those who I know nothing about.

This list helped me keep significant details about certain characters strait when I was working on very long pieces. It also helped when I first started writing to really grasp character development in general.

There are several questionnaires like this around the web. Many of them have the same questions. Some have questions that are more for sci-fi, or romance. This is more of a general use one.

For convenience I have print ready versions of the list. Go “here” and find it listed as “page 1” and “page 2” Or you can cut and paste the list below into a word processor.

Remember: The questions are about your character, not about you, so answer appropriately. Keep in mind that these questions are not all necessary for every character, in fact for bit parts you may only want to answer a couple of them. This was designed for the lead character of a novel in mind, and you will have to adjust it as necessary. This was also designed with fantasy and SF stories in mind, so some questions are specifically geared to those genres. Also, some of these have been changed slightly from the originals posted on the pages above, but it all boils down to the same thing.

The Questions

Full name of Character:
Reason, meaning or purpose behind the name:
Nickname:
Reason for nickname:
Race:
Occupation/class:
Social class:

Physical Appearance:

Age:
How old they appear:
Eye Color:
Glasses or contacts?
Hair color length and style:
Weight and height:
Type of body (build):
Skin tone and type (i.e., harry, slimy, scaly, oily, fair, burns easily):
Shape of face:
Distinguishing marks (dimples, moles, scars, birthmarks, etc.):
Predominant feature:
Is s/he healthy?
If not, why not? Or why are they healthy?
Do they look healthy? Why/why not?

Favorites:

Char’s favorite color:
Least favorite, why?
Music?
Least favorite music, why?
Food:
Literature:
Expressions:
Expletives (curse):
Mode of transport:
Hobbies:
How do they spend a rainy day?

Personality:

Are they a daredevil or cautious?
Do they act the same alone as when with someone?
Habits:
Drinks:
How much:
Greatest Strength:
Greatest Weakness:
Soft spot:
Is their soft spot obvious, why/why not:
If not, how do they hide it:
Biggest Vulnerability:

Background:

Hometown:
Type of childhood:
First Memory:
Most important child hood event that still effects him/her:
Why?
Education:
Religion:
Finances:

Family:

Mother:
Relationship with her:
Father:
Relationship with him:
Siblings, How many, relationship with each:
Children of siblings:
Other extended family:
Close? Why or why not:

Attitude:

Most at ease when:
Most ill at ease when:
Priorities:
Philosophies:
How they feel about themselves:
Past failure they would be embarrassed to admit:
Why?
If granted one wish what would it be, why?

Traits:

Optimist or pessimist? Why?
Introvert or extrovert? Why?
Drives and motives:
Talents:
Extremely skilled at:
Extremely unskilled at:
Good characteristics:
Character flaws:
Mannerisms:
Peculiarities:
Biggest regret:
Minor regrets:
Biggest accomplishment:
Minor accomplishments:
Darkest secret:
Does anyone know?
How did they find out:

Self-perception:

One word they would use to describe themselves:
One paragraph of how they would describe themselves:
What do they consider their best physical characteristic and why:
The worst one? Why?
Are they realistic assessments?
If not, why not?
How they think others preserve them:
What four things would they most like to change about themselves:
Why?
If they were changed would they be the same person, why/why not:
Would changing of number 1 make them more happy? Why/why not:

Interaction with other people:

How do they relate to others:
How are they perceived by strangers:
Friends:
Wife/husband/lover:
The Hero/Heroin:
How do they view the Hero/Heroine:
First impression of the char:
why?
What happens to change this perception:
What do people like most about this char:
What do they dislike most about them:

Goals:

Immediate:
Long term:
How do they plan to accomplish them:
How will others be effected by this:

Problems/Crisis:

How do they react in a crisis:
How do they face problems:
Kind of problems they usually run into:
How they react to new problems:
How they react to change:

General:

Favorite clothing, why:
Least favorite, why:
Jewelry:
Other accessories:
Drives:
Where do they live:
Where do they want to live:
Spending habits, why:
What do they do too much of, why:
Most prized possession, why:
People they secretly admire, why:
Person they are most influenced by, why:
Most important person in their life before story starts, why:
How do they spend the week just before the story starts:

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Posted by on January 28, 2013 in On Writing

 

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