Tag Archives: character-questionnaires

Character: Using Questionnaires

Q. What colour are a character’s eyes? A. I don’t care.
Q. How tall is character X? A. Unless they are nine-feet tall or can limbo under a door without effort, it doesn’t matter much to me.
Q. What do they do? A. Better, but in a lot of cases I could get by without knowing.
Seriously, I have friends I have known for 30 years and I could not tell you what colour their eyes are, or how tall they are (in feet and inches), and I am often stumped when people ask what they do for a living. This could be a boy-thing, of course.
What I do care about is whether they make me laugh, or if they’re always early or late, or they odd things they do in restaurants.
Questionnaires are sometimes taught as a good way to create a character, but I struggle. It’s not just that I can’t answer the questions, it’s the sense that I’m probably not a good writer if I can’t.
I have since found that it is enough to start with a general sense of a character and see what develops. It could be suggested that I create a questionnaire to include the laughter, lateness, and restaurant behaviour; but the interesting characteristics are different for each character, and tend to emerge in the writing.
The most useful bit of advice I heard was to use the questionnaire only after the first draft. This makes sense. But I have since discovered that it is more useful to me to interview the characters. However, this post is long enough already, so I’ll leave that to another one.