QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dig a Little Deeper - Getting to Know Your Characters

Are you struggling with a certain character? Perhaps wanting to know all your characters better? Answering these twenty-five questions can help you find out both the nitty gritty and the deepest darkest.

Some creative imagery prior to beginning is helpful. Before you ask the first question, take a moment to picture your character in the room with you, sitting in a spot that suits them. If it helps to ask the questions aloud, feel free to do so. Be sure to save your answers; you'll be referring to them frequently.

Good luck, and have fun!

Character Interview Questions

Note: These questions can be answered in first or third person; however, answering them in first person will help you nail your character’s voice (even if your story is written in third person.)

  1. How old are you?
  2. If the house burned down, what one thing would you want to take with you?
  3. Describe your hands.
  4. Describe your nightstand, dresser, or bathroom counter. What’s on top of it? In it?
  5. What is your favorite food?
  6. Describe your economic/political status.
  7. Where do you have a scar or birthmark? Describe circumstances surrounding your scars.
  8. What is the last book you read? What did you think of it?
  9. Do you have an embarrassing habit?
  10. Give one vivid memory of a parent or parental figure.
  11. What is a dream (in sleep) you often have?
  12. Do you have a lifelong dream or aspiration?
  13. How do you go to sleep, and how do you wake up? (i.e. position in bed, etc.)
  14. What is the last thing you wrote?
  15. What grosses you out?
  16. Who is the person you like the least? Why?
  17. Tell me about the last time you cried.
  18. What is something you feel guilty about?
  19. Describe what you do when you look in a mirror.
  20. Describe yourself sitting in your favorite spot.
  21. Tell me about a very treasured item.
  22. Do you have a nervous tic or habit?
  23. Tell me about your siblings…if you have them.
  24. What is your favorite sound?
  25. What is your favorite smell?

I would love to know how this works for you! Leave a comment or drop me an email (address at right.)

*Special thanks to Julie Pullman, who shared this list, and who mentors the Literati Aspiring Teen Authors Group with me.

Suzette Saxton writes books for tots, teens, and in-betweens. She is represented by Suzie Townsend of FinePrint Literary.


Amy Tate said...

Love this list! I printed it and taped it to the wall.

Suzette Saxton said...

Glad you liked it, Amy. And it's good to see you!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Great questionnaire, Suzette!

I love the book, Getting Into Character by Brandilyn Collins. I've talked about it a couple of times on my blog. Her first chapter on personalizing is definitely work, but I promise, by the time you're finished, you'll know your character better than you could have ever imagined. Questionnaires are great. I use them too. But the personalizing exercise will take your characterization two steps further. Promise. :D

joannehuspek said...

Fabulous list! Sometimes I don't know my characters until the end of the first draft, then I have to go over and insert the idiosyncrasies in the second edit. This list makes planning so much easier.

Chantal said...

Wow, this was really great! Thanks for sharing!

Yvonne said...

It does help! And I'm happy to say I can answer most of these questions about my protagonist. You can never know about about your characters.

Tere Kirkland said...

Great list, Suzette! Sometimes I forget that I need to ask my more minor characters questions like this to make them come alive, too.


Michael Rivers said...

What a great idea to answer in your character's voice. I never thought of that!

Feywriter said...

I need to do this! I had a beta reader complain recently that even though my character is likeable, its as if they didn't exist before page one. No friends, no hobbies, just a blob waiting for a purpose to shape her. I need to get to know her myself before my readers can really connect to her.

Angie said...

Thanks! I will be using that.

Carolyn V. said...

What a great idea to get to know my characters better! Thanks! =)

Paul West said...

I guess I'm kind of a maverick when it comes to creating characters. I've never done one of these character quiz sheets.

I create characters with similar traits as people I know or knew. Sometimes, they're even patterned after me.

As I'm writing from their POV, I insert myself into their minds. I think the way they would think, act the way they would act, based on how I would act and think if I were them.

DaniSue said...

I do this all the time, I even posted one of the interviews with my MC on my blog. It always works when I get stuck or lose direction as I'm writing, it's fun and a nice break, plus I'm still working on my MS even though it doesn't feel like it.

Claire said...

When it comes to character creation I'm not really a list person. That being said reading through the questions here this does look like it will be useful to get to know my characters better.

Cheree said...

Thanks for the information, I'll definitely be interviewing my characters to get to know them better.

Ian said...

I loved this list of questions. I interviewed one of my characters on my blog at www.ianthealy.com. :)

Robin of My Two Blessings said...

Wonderful list. Just printed it out and will be interviewing my characters in current wip. Thanks.

kimysworld said...

Great list - some of the questions really get personal and show a lot about someone! I do also as someone said above - I fashion my characters after people I know or traits of people I know. Then when I am writing I just think of them and how they act and it helps!

KM said...

Love this! I did this with one of my characters for my last WIP and it really helped!

Deb Salisbury said...

Great post! This one is on my SAVE list.

Suzette Saxton said...

I'm glad you all are finding this list useful. :)

Thanks for the resource, Stina, and I'm heading to your blog now, Ian.

Lydia Kang said...

Hey, great list and a wonderful exercise for fleshing out a character. I'll have to try this with my next WIP!

Jason Arnett said...

I've been looking for something like this. Thanks for sharing it.

jessjordan said...

Kick ass. Bookmarking this now. :)

Suzette Saxton said...

You're welcome! :D

Alexandra Crocodile said...


I found your blog via Angie Paxton at "answering the what if" - I wrote a post about getting to know your MC better and she linked to this post. And I have to say - it's brilliant! Such great questions! I might just write a separate post about these questions, I find them so useful:)