This posting is for writers. In the process of crafting a blog posting for the Write Way Cafe, posting on November 20, I remembered that my friend, John Foxjohn, created the most thorough and exhaustive list of questions, topics, etc., to define a character. This list is below. John claims that very few of these details actually appear in his stories. http://www.johnfoxjohnhome.com/
It seems to me that writing a story is an exercise in delayed gratification, and the effort involved in answering all of these items, for me, gives rise to dozens of plot ideas and twists . The euphoria from typing “The End” is short lived, and the time until a contracted story appears, either online or in print, is so long as to make the actual event an anti-climax.
My latest story, The Jury Scandal, is due out in five days. Watch for the announcement. I’ve only worked on this one since 2006. Egads.
Here’s the list. Please let me know if you use it and how it worked.
How old do they appear:
Type of body/build:
Glasses or contacts
Shape of face:
Distinguishable hair feature (bald, receding hairline, etc.):
Type of hair (coarse, fine, thick, etc?)
Is s/he healthy? If not, why not:
Character’s favorite color:
Expressions and this also includes unique mannerisms
Way they speak, words used most often
Mode of transportation:
Daredevil or cautious?
When and how much?
Drinks: What? When and how much?
Type of childhood:
Most important childhood event that still affects him/her: Why?
Mother: Relationship with her:
Father: Relationship with him:
Siblings: How many
Relationship with each:
Close? Why or why not?
Does character have child(ren)?
How many children does character have?
Are all children with the same partner? If no, Why? If no, what is the custody
How does character relate to his/her child(ren)?
Which child is character’s favorite? Why?
What is characters most favorite memory of his/her child(ren)? Why?
What is characters least favorite memory of his/her child(ren)? Why?
Is relationship with children important to character?
Where does character work?
For how long?
How does s/he feel about co-workers?
Get along with co-workers?
Like his/her job? Why or why not?
Character’s dream job:
Character’s short term goals:
Character’s greatest fear: Why?
What is the worst thing that could happen to him/her?
What single event would most throw character’s life in complete turmoil? Why?
Character is most at ease when:
Most ill at ease when:
How s/he feels about self:
Past failure s/he would be embarrassed to have people know about: Why?
If granted one wish, what would it be? Why?
Greatest source of strength in character’s personality (whether s/he sees it as
such or not):
Greatest source of weakness in character’s personality (whether s/he sees it as
such or not):
Character’s soft spot:
Is this soft spot obvious to others? If not, how does character hide it?
Which of the 7 deadly sins does your character fight (or give in to, willingly or not)?
(lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride)
Which of the 7 virtues does your character have (or fight against)?
(chastity, abstinence, liberality, diligence, patience, kindness, humility)
Optimist or pessimist: Why?
Introvert or extrovert: Why?
Drives and motivations:
Extremely skilled at:
Extremely unskilled at:
Character’s darkest secret:
Does anyone else know?
If yes, did character tell them?
If no, how did they find out?
One word character would use to describe self:
One paragraph description of how character would describe self:
What does character consider best physical characteristic?
What does character consider worst physical characteristic?
Are these realistic assessments? If not, why not?
How CHARACTER thinks others perceive him/her:
What four things would CHARACTER most like to change about self? (#1 most
important, #2 second most important, etc.)
If change #1 was made, would character be as happy as s/he thinks?
If not, why not?
Is character divorced? Why?
If divorced, how many times?
Has character ever cheated on significant other?
How does character relate to others?
How is s/he perceived by…
How does character view hero/heroine?
First impression: Why? What happens to change this perception?
What do family/friends like most about character?
What do family/friends like least about character?
What does friends consider character’s best physical characteristic?
What do people who first meet the character think about them?
What emotions to the character instill in others?
Long range goals:
How does character plan to accomplish goals?
How will other people around character be affected?
How character reacts in a crisis:
How character faces problems:
Kinds of problems character usually runs into:
How character reacts to NEW problems:
How character reacts to change:
Least favorite clothing:
Where does character live?
Where does character want to live?
Spending habits (frugal, spendthrift, etc):
What does s/he do too much of?
Too little of?
Most prized possession:
Play musical instrument?
How did s/he learn?
Lesson when she was young
Person character secretly admires:
Person character was most influenced by:
Most important person in character’s life before story starts: