Questions to ask your characters

Questions to Ask Your Character in an Interview7 min read

by Wadzanai Mufunde
5 comments

Below I have compiled a list of interview questions to ask your character. Enjoy!

The Basics

What is your name? 

Of all the questions to ask your character, their name is perhaps the most important. Characters I create often act very differently depending on the names I give them because of the preconceptions I often attach to those names as an author. As I often associate the name Cole with bad boys, if I were to give a character this name, it’s like they would follow the same pattern. On the other hand, if I named him Michael he may be a nice, understanding and sympathetic character because this is the kind of behaviour I have come to expect from most people with the name Michael. Of course, this becomes harder to predict with made up names.

What is your gender?

Many people wonder about the differences between writing a female character vs writing a male character. They often forget that both genders are just people at the end of the day. Don’t generalise all female characters as over emotional individuals who will fall over and cry at the first opportunity. Don’t generalise all male characters as strong, silent types who will rather endure pain in silence rather than admit a weakness. In order to choose an appropriate gender consider how your world’s society works. If you need a character who is going to be accepted as a warrior or adventurer then making them a female in a medieval patriarchal society probably isn’t the way to go unless you intend to make that character struggle for that acceptance.

How old are you?

There’s no arguing that a 15-year-old is going to act differently to a 50-year-old. Although age does not always equal maturity, the general rule would be that the 50-year-old character would behave in a more mature manner than the 15-year-old. This is of course a generalisation, and you have to take into consideration the character’s other characteristics. Another thing to consider is that the opportunities available to these different ages will be vastly different. If your novel is set against the backdrop of a war, set in the military, perhaps your 15-year-old has just been drafted, but your 50-year-old may even be a General already. The likelihood of a 15-year-old General is highly unlikely, if not impossible.

Where are they from?

A character living in an enslaved colony is going to have a very different experience than a character growing up in the capital city of the empire. They will have different speech patterns, different expectations impressed on them as children, and even a different life expectancy. 

What social class are they in?

Are they a royal, a noble, or a peasant? Perhaps they are a soldier and are more well respected than a peasant, but less respected than a noble? This is such an important thing to decide because a character’s social class determines how other characters treat them. If they are a royal or a noble people may have been bowing and scraping at them all their lives and they may have since nurtured an air of superiority. Of course, it’s possible to be rich and noble, but depending on the society you have created, it is less likely.

Their social class also determines how that character see other people. Perhaps your king thinks the peasants are worse than the dirt beneath his boots. See my article about how to write a tyrant. Or perhaps he is an understanding king because he wasn’t raised this way and only became king after a coup he devised after spending time in exile. To learn how to write a good monarch, see this post

What is your sexual orientation?

There are perhaps too many sexual orientations to list here, but I will note down a few common ones: heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality and asexuality. Your character could be any of these, or any of the many others I haven’t mentioned. This will determine which characters your character will pursue as love interests. It’s best to determine this early so you don’t have to go back and rewrite great portions of your book to make them appear more one sexuality than the other, but having said that, remember that sexuality is fluid

Do you have any hobbies, talents or special powers?

Giving your character hobbies and talents will make them more interesting, well-rounded characters. One of my own characters loves collecting butterflies, for instance. Is it crucial to the story? No. It doesn’t have to be, but finding a way to showcase it in an interesting way is important. Try to choose unique and interesting hobbies and talents when you can. I can’t tell you the amount of love interests I’ve seen portrayed as playing the piano in order to give them some kind of sexual appeal. It’s overdone. For once I’d like to see a kazoo player! 

Not all of your characters will have special powers, and that is okay. I’ll have to write a separate article about how to create magic systems at some point. But for now each time you get stumped about what special power to give them take a look at the Powerlistings website. Think about not only the strengths of this character’s powers, but also the weaknesses and what it costs them to use it, both physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally. 

Describe your personality in five words or less.

It might also be interesting for you as the author to at some point describe the character in five words. Look and see what a difference a new lens makes. Perhaps, for example, your cruel king doesn’t see themselves this way and believes they are truly just and fair. Of all the questions to ask your character, this one is important because it lets your character reflect on their lives.

What is your Myers-Briggs personality?

I’ve chosen the Myers-Briggs test because it  is the one I understand. You can choose any other personality test that catches your fancy. Websites that will help you choose the appropriate Myer-Briggs personality for your character include Truity and 16Personalities

Appearance 

What is your physical build?

Which race or species do you belong to?

What is your skin tone?

What is your hair like in terms of colour and texture?

Describe your face shape and facial features.

What is your eye colour?

Do you have any notable birthmarks, scars, tattoos, etc?

What is your clothing style like?

Do you wear jewellery?

Beliefs & Motivations

Are you religious? If so, which god do you worship and why?

Where do you believe you go once you die?

What are your goals in life?

What motivates you to attain these goals?

List the obstacle you face in reaching your goals. Which is the biggest obstacle and why?

Character traits

What bad habit are you trying to overcome?

How would your best friend describe you?

What are five traits that you admire in others?

What are five traits that you dislike in others?

Take a moment to assess yourself. What character traits do you admire in yourself?

What character traits do you dislike about yourself?

Do you have any flaws and weaknesses? What are they?

What are you afraid of?

Do any events from your past actively affect your current actions or thoughts?

Do you have family, living, or deceased?

What is your deepest, darkest secret?

(Question for the Author) How will they evolve by the end of the story?

Relationships

Describe what your best friend is like in detail.

Describe what your worst enemy is like in detail.

What is your current relationship with your father like?

Describe your current relationship with your mother like.

What is your current relationship with your siblings like?

Do you have a significant other or romantic partner at present?

What is your current relationship with your romantic partner like?

What is the worst thing you’ve done to someone you love?

Have you ever had your heart broken? How did it happen?

Do you have any children? What are they like?

Miscellaneous

If you could enter someone’s body and take over their mind, who would it be?

If you could have one wish, what would you wish for?

Who do you admire most in life, and why?

If you could, what animal would you be, and why?

What is your favourite flower?

What are your pet peeves?

Describe what your most frightening dream was like.

What is your favourite dream like? Why do you cherish it so much and what happened in the dream?

What does a perfect world look like to you?

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5 comments

The Owl March 29, 2020 - 3:03 am

Those are very good questions to ask your OCs. :O I’ll be sure to do the same! ^_^b

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Bella Putt March 29, 2020 - 2:40 pm

Great post! I love all the questions–I’ll have to use them next time I’m working on character building! 😀

Reply
Wadzanai Mufunde March 30, 2020 - 12:41 am

Thank you!

Reply
Bella Baird March 30, 2020 - 12:08 am

I’m in the third draft of my novel, but there’s one important character I’ve added in this time. I CANNOT WAIT to ask him these questions and see what he’s like! I’ve seen many questionnaire’s, but this one is already my favourite!

Reply
Wadzanai Mufunde March 30, 2020 - 12:40 am

Thank you! I’m glad you like it. 😄

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