As I plot out my next book and finish up the first draft of my writing tips project, I keep coming back to the subject of character development. Because we all know that the most important part of any book is who the stuff happens to. If no one cares about your main character, they won’t care about who in their life dies, or who gets superpowers, or the moon exploding and changing their life. The first thing any good writer needs to do is make the readers care about the characters. So, I thought I needed to make another post about characters.
There are unlimited resources available for writers in this department. I have several character questionnaires printed in a folder, saved on my computer, or bookmarked in craft books. And I reference all of them at any given time. My favorite one, though, would have to be from writershelpingwriters.net (Which is a great website if you’ve never been there.) But it includes deep-dive questions that really get you to the heart of your characters. Surface details like the color of their hair and eyes really don’t matter when it comes down to it.
My favorite character questions:
- Voice – Does he have verbal tics? Volume and pitch? Emotion coming through?
- Skills – What are they good at? Do they have a talent that they keep secret? Why is it a secret?
- Family – How is their relationship with their parents? Siblings? What are their family values?
- Secrets and Fears – *This is the big one* What does he keep secret? Does anyone know the secret? What would happen if someone found out? And what are they afraid of? Big fears and small ones. What causes this fear?
- Stress and Pressure – How do they act in a stressful situation? Do they like a challenge? What is their breaking point?
There are a ton more questions on the website, but for me those are the big ones that need to be addressed to really get to know my characters. What I love about these questions is that they also feed into the plot information. When you ask about someone’s family relationships, suddenly you have more to talk about in a scene when someone brings up their long-lost brother. Or if someone has a secret, what happens once it’s revealed? And if they get put into a stressful situation, their reaction can add into the scene you haven’t fleshed out yet.
Because it all comes back to the characters. Make the reader care about them, and they care about the book. And that’s the ultimate goal, isn’t it?