There are thousands of guides and questionnaires floating around the internet that claim they have the answer to your character development needs- ways to make well-rounded characters that you can practically reach in and grab right off the page. The downside to that is that these questionnaires are usually over 100 questions long. Keeping this in mind, I’ve formed a condensed list that should help you develop your M.C. (and supporting characters!) in a shorter amount of time.
- What is your character’s name? (Obvious question, right? Expand. Who gave them that name? What’s their whole name? Do they have any nicknames? Does anyone tease them by giving them particularly nasty ones? Did one of the parents disagree on their name? What does their name mean? [Use http://www.babynamesworld.com to find out!] Is their name meaning of significance to the story?)
- How old is your character? (What grade are they in? What is their age? When were they born? Do they look young for their age? Old for their age? Do they know more/less than they should at this age?)
- What does your character look like? (Are they the spitting image of 21 Jump Street era Johnny Depp? How tall are they? What race are they? Do they have scars? Birthmarks? What is their hair like? What color are their eyes? Do their eyes change colors? Are they skinny/medium-sized/fat?)
- How does your character dress? (On a school day? When going to work? On the weekends? On a lazy Saturday morning? On the way to a party? A wedding? A dance? Why do they dress this way? Does it make them feel good? What are their favorite colors to wear?)
- What are some notable relationships your character has? (Do they have a favorite teacher? Are their parents alive? What do they think of their parents? What do their parents think of them? Brothers/sisters? Pastors/coaches? Best friends/worst enemies/frenemies/Facebook stalkers?)
- What is in your character’s memory? (What do they remember most vividly? Do they have selective amnesia? Can they remember things from a young age? How old were they in their first memory? Do they have pleasant memories of their parents/friends? Did they leave anyone behind? Why?)
- Where does your character live? (Is it a nice place? A real place? Urban/rural? Dangerous/crime-free? Is it a community of primarily one race? Is it a diverse community? Is it a strictly conservative community? What does the community think of the character/ their family? Where did the character live before this? Why did they move? Do they wish they could live somewhere else?)
- What is your character’s room like? (Is it messy? Are there clothes all over the floor, or is everything stacked up neatly and put away? Do they have a lot of posters or furniture? Do they just sleep on a single mattress in the middle of the room? Do they have a lot of clothes? Do they share a room with another person/people? Is it small/big? Do they even have a room, or do they live in a garage/tent/cardboard box? Are they homeless? Where do they sleep?)
- What is your character good at? (Do they have any special abilities? What about powers? Are they smart? Do they excel in school or at sports? Can they do something that no one else can? Why do people admire/dislike them? Are they estranged because of what they do well?)
- What does your character want? (This is your most important question! What will propel your character to do everything you have in store for them? What is their ultimate goal? What will they sacrifice everything in order to achieve?)
- What does your character do when they’re not at home? (Does your character like to go out with their friends, or do they hardly ever go out? Do they go to church every day? Where do they go? Why? Has it been around for a long time? Why do they keep going back? If they don’t go out, why not?)
- What does your character like to do? (Even if your character isn’t good at it, do they have something they like to do? Are they horrible singers with a love for vocals, or are they a bad actor who wants to take the stage? Do they always stop to play the electric pianos in the toy department, even if they have no idea how to?)
- How does your character love? (Are they extremely clingy, or do they like open relationships? What is their sexual orientation? Do they identify as male, female, both, or neither? How do they classify their ideal partner? Do they think appearances are as important as personalities? More important? Less important? To what extent will your character protect the one they love?)
- What will ultimately destroy your character? (What is the worst possible thing that can happen to your character? Why? How can this be prevented? What will they do if it happens anyway? How will this impact their personality? Will they change at all?)
Good luck, everyone!