In my last few books, I’ve just figured out the characters as I’ve gone along, having some sense of who they were. Granted, there were usually only about five to six characters in the story, so it made it fairly easy, but on my current WIP, I’m up to twelve characters with more on the way.
At first, I began like I had before, just letting the story flow from my head to the page. And then a funny thing happened (not a ha-ha funny, either)…all my characters seemed flat, like they only had very minimum differences. So small, in fact, that I’m not even sure the variances stood out.
I stopped writing and decided to work on character development. I had once heard someone, somewhere talk about character questionnaires. At that point in my writing, I thought they were a complete waste of time. But now, I’ve changed my mind. I needed to know my characters. I mean, really, really know them: their dreams, their hopes, their fears, their secrets.
So I set out to obtain one of these questionnaires, but couldn’t find one that fit what I felt I needed to know. With that, I compiled my own list of questions, pulling a few from different questionnaires and then coming up with some of my own.
Now I’m working at filling these out for all my characters. So far, I’ve only completed three, but already I can see them more clearly and their differences are amazing. They aren’t what I originally had in my head (which were flat and dull). These characters have different obstacles, different goals, different ways of seeing the world.
As I have learn more about them, my story has expanded, branching out and growing deeper than before. And as I continue with the other characters, I know this benefit will only multiply. If you’d like to see the list of questions I use, click here.
And for all you writers, have you ever used a questionnaire? If so, what questions did you use that gave you the best insight to your characters?