The Character Questionnaire is a list of questions, put into groups, to help prompt writers to add detail and depth to their characters.
The best way to use the Character Questionnaire is in the Novel Factory writing software (which you can try completely free), but if you don't fancy that, then you can scroll down to view all of the questions below. And if you join our mailing list (form at the bottom of the page), we'll email it to you as a PDF.
Why use a character questionnaire?
A character questionnaire is a great way to get our brains working in new directions.
It's not intended like an exam, that you must complete for each character in order to get full marks. In fact, you should only consider doing it at all for the major characters. And even then it's most useful as an inspirational tool, not a plodding box ticking exercise.
The questions can help us think about aspects of our characters we might not have considered otherwise. They can prompt us to develop new, unique elements of their personality.
We can use questions to give us ideas about how we can contrast our characters and create conflict between them.
Or they can help us discover details about their home or work life which will enrich our descriptions and make them feel more three dimensional to our readers.
Note - a questionnaire is not a good way to start building a character. The questions are too piecemeal, and your character needs to have a more coherent core before you get to this stage.
(The Novel Factory includes other character development worksheets to help building characters with strong central drives).
How to use it?
All tools are only really useful if you use them right. Here are a few dos and don'ts to help you get the most out of this character questionnaire:
- Start by browsing quickly over all of the questions to get a sense of the sections
- Vary how you use the questionnaire depending on the character / the day / your mood
- Pick out the questions that you find work best for you, and use them to create your own personal streamlined questionnaire
- Completely ignore any sections you don't feel are relevant to your character
- Mix it up - one day you might decide to pick 10 questions completely at random. Another day you might decide to complete all the questions in a single section.
- Approach it as a brainstorming exercise
- Allow your mind to go down a rabbit hole, if one question inspires you to write an entire scene from that character's history, than fantastic!
- Understand that your in-depth knowledge of the character will bleed into your writing, even if the vast majority of this information is never written in your manuscript
- Try to answer all of the questions for any given character
- Feel you have to go through the questions in order
- Try to follow a rigid pattern over and over
- Use it to start building a character - you should already have the broad brushstrokes of your character, including what drives them and their biggest flaw
- Use all of the information in your novel - most of the answers should be internalised, not spelled out
Don't forget, the Novel Factory software includes other character sheet templates for you to fill in, such as basic info character voice, game show introductions, characterisation and background.
Character Outline Questions
Basic Character Questions
- First name?
- Middle names?
- Date of birth?
Physical / Appearance
- Hair colour?
- Hair style?
- Eye colour?
- Eye Shape?
- Glasses or contact lenses?
- Distinguishing facial features?
- Which facial feature is most prominent?
- Which bodily feature is most prominent?
- Other distinguishing features?
- Make up?
- Physical handicaps?
- Type of clothes?
- How do they wear their clothes?
- What are their feet like? (type of shoes, state of shoes, socks, feet, pristine, dirty, worn, etc)
- Race / Ethnicity?
- Are they in good health?
- Do they have any disabilities?
- What words or phrases do they overuse?
- Do they have a catchphrase?
- Are they more optimistic or pessimistic?
- Are they introverted or extroverted?
- Do they ever put on airs?
- What bad habits do they have?
- What makes them laugh out loud?
- How do they display affection?
- Mental handicaps?
- How do they want to be seen by others?
- How do they see themselves?
- How are they seen by others?
- Strongest character trait?
- Weakest character trait?
- How competitive are they?
- Do they make snap judgements or take time to consider?
- How do they react to praise?
- How do they react to criticism?
- What is their greatest fear?
- What are their biggest secrets?
- What is their philosophy of life?
- When was the last time they cried?
- What haunts them?
- What are their political views?
- What will they stand up for?
- Who do they quote?
- Are they indoorsy or outdoorsy?
- What is their sinful little habit?
- What sense do they most rely on?
- How do they treat people better than them?
- How do they treat people worse than them?
- What quality do they most value in a friend?
- What do they consider an overrated virtue?
- If they could change one thing about themselves, what would it be?
- What is their obsession?
- What are their pet peeves?
- What are their idiosyncrasies?
Friends and Family
- Is their family big or small? Who does it consist of?
- What is their perception of family?
- Do they have siblings? Older or younger?
- Describe their best friend.
- Ideal best friend?
- Describe their other friends.
- Describe their acquaintances.
- Do they have any pets?
- Who are their natural allies?
- Who are their surprising allies?
Past and Future
- What was your character like as a baby? As a child?
- Did they grow up rich or poor?
- Did they grow up nurtured or neglected?
- What is the most offensive thing they ever said?
- What is their greatest achievement?
- What was their first kiss like?
- What is the worst thing they did to someone they loved?
- What are their ambitions?
- What advice would they give their younger self?
- What smells remind them of their childhood?
- What was their childhood ambition?
- What is their best childhood memory?
- What is their worst childhood memory?
- Did they have an imaginary childhood friend?
- When was the last time they were crushed with disappointment?
- What past act are they most ashamed of?
- What past act are they most proud of?
- Has anyone ever saved their life?
- Strongest childhood memory?
- Do they believe in love at first sight?
- Are they in a relationship?
- How do they behave in a relationship?
- When did you character last have sex?
- What sort of sex do they have?
- Has your character ever been in love?
- Have they ever had their heart broken?
- How do they respond to a threat?
- Are they most likely to fight with their fists or their tongue?
- What is your character’s kryptonite?
- If your character could only save one thing from their burning house, what would it be?
- How do they perceive strangers?
- What do they love to hate?
- What are their phobias?
- What is their choice of weapon?
- What living person do they most despise?
- Have they ever been bullied or teased?
- Where do they go when they’re angry?
- Who are their enemies and why?
Work, Education and Hobbies
- What is their current job?
- What do they think about their current job?
- What are some of their past jobs?
- What are their hobbies?
- Educational background?
- Intelligence level?
- Do they have any specialist training?
- Do they have a natural talent for something?
- Do they play a sport? Are they any good?
- What is their socioeconomic status?
- What is their favourite animal?
- Which animal to they dislike the most?
- What place would they most like to visit?
- What is the most beautiful thing they’ve ever seen?
- What is their favourite song?
- Music, art, reading preferred?
- What is their favourite colour?
- What is their password?
- Favourite food:
- What is their favourite work of art?
- Who is their favourite artist?
- What is their favourite day of the week?
- What is in their fridge:
- What is on their bedside table?
- What is in their car?
- What is in their bin?
- What is in their purse or wallet?
- What is in their pockets?
- What is their most treasured possession?
- Who or what is your character’s guardian angel?
- Do they believe in the afterlife?
- What are their religious views?
- What do they think heaven is?
- What do they think hell is?
- Are they superstitious?
- What would they like to be reincarnated as?
- How would they like to die?
- What is your character’s spirit animal?
- What is their zodiac sign?
- What do they think is the worst thing that can be done to a person?
- What is their view of ‘freedom’?
- When did they last lie?
- What’s their view of lying?
- When did they last make a promise?
- Did they keep or break their last promise?
- What are their eating habits?
- Do they have any allergies?
- Describe their home.
- Are they minimalist or a clutter hoarder?
- What do they do first thing on a weekday morning?
- What do they do on a Sunday afternoon?
- What do they do on a Friday night?
- What is the soft drink of choice?
- What is their alcoholic drink of choice?
- What is their character archetype?
- Who is their hero?
- What or who would your character dress up as for Halloween?
- Are they comfortable with technology?
- If they could save one person, who would it be?
- If they could call one person for help, who would it be?
- What is their favourite proverb?
- What is their greatest extravagance?
- What is their greatest regret?
- What is their perception of redemption?
- What would they do if they won the lottery?
- What is their favourite fairytale?
- What fairytale do they hate?
- Do they believe in happy endings?
- What is their idea of perfect happiness?
- What would they ask a fortune teller?
- If your character could travel through time, where would they go?
- What sport do they excel at?
- What sport do they suck at?
- If they could have a superpower, what would they choose?
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