Good characters have depth, experience growth, have flaws—they’re real people. Asking yourself a defined set of character development questions is one way to develop these kinds of characters, who jump off the page with realistic and compelling personalities.
In this article, we’ve rounded up many helpful character development exercises into a list of ten questions to ask your character as you plan, write, or edit your story. Read on for some interesting character development questions to ask yourself, and do this exercise character by character for anyone in your story that you’d like to know better.
10 Character Development Questions to Ask Each of Your Characters
Ask your character…
1. Who are you?
Think of the “who” of your character as the firm foundation with which you’ll bring your character to life. This “who” might take the form of one or two honest sentences that really tap the essence of the character. Starting with a strong “who” can help you add depth to your character throughout your story.
2. What are your strongest motivations?
What, fundamentally, drives your character? To be accepted by his or her peers? To create something new and beautiful? To protect his or her loved ones from a dangerous world? To find perspective on mortality? What are the core, underlying drives that shape this character and the actions he or she takes?
3. What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
What world does your character hope to see? What would fulfillment look like for your character? What is your character doing to reach toward these hopes—or do they seem too far out of reach?
4. What are your biggest fears and/or regrets?
Your character certainly has a future he or she doesn’t want to end up in. What is it, and why? What are the darkest secrets and the biggest failures from your character’s past? What haunts him or her?
5. What are your greatest strengths?
What comes easily to this character? What makes this character strong, and why?
6. What are your greatest weaknesses?
Every good character has weaknesses. What puts your character out of place, out of his or her comfort zone, vulnerable? Why?
7. What are you like socially?
How does your character view other people? Is your character very social and extroverted, or a little more on the quiet, shy, introverted side? Thinking about how your character acts in social situations can help you “beef” up your character and add depth.
8. What is your role in the story?
Consider your character’s role in the development of the story. Why does your character exist in your story? Is the character a protagonist, antagonist, or secondary character? How does your character change the story? And how is the character changed by the story—what is his or her development arc?
9. What is your connection to the overall storyline?
This is the important link between your character and your overall storyline. What specific impact will your character have on the overall progression of your story?
10. What sort of dynamic exists between you and the other characters?
Consider the relationships your character will have with other main or supporting characters. How do they interact? How do their personalities and motivations bounce off one another? How do they come away feeling upon interacting with each other?
Create Your Own Character Questionnaire
Creating your very own character questionnaire can be extremely useful in the writing process and enhance your understanding of your characters, prompting you to develop new, unique elements of their personalities. It’s a great tool for figuring out what makes your characters tick, and it can help align your storyline and plot with your character’s overall personality.
As you work to create your own questionnaire for characters, you can search for existing examples. The ten questions above are one example, and here are a few others:
- 160+ Character Development Questions on ThinkWritten
- Creating a Memorable Character Worksheet from Lee White
- Character Profile Template on Reedsy
- “How to Create a Powerful Character Arc” by Jerry Jenkins
Lastly, as you look for questions to ask your character, it may be useful to take a hint from the “self-help” section of your bookstore. The same sort of self-inquiry that is important in our own lives can be applied to your development of characters.
Now you Know the Questions to Ask Your Characters!
Figure out the things you should know about each of your characters, and write interesting, multidimensional characters with clear character arcs that evolve seamlessly throughout your story.
Now that you know which character development questions to ask and how to write interesting characters, it’s time to level up your writing even more. We have lots of classes for that.
Upcoming Fiction Writing Classes
The Hero’s Journey For Storytellers
with Gloria Kempton
April 8th, 2020
Structure your story and give it meaning with Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey.
But What Is Your Story Really About? Finding the Core of Your Short Memoir, Story, or Personal Essay
with Giulietta Nardone
April 15th, 2020
Take a four-week writing adventure deep into the core of your story, to find the true theme of your personal essay, short story, or short memoir.
Write Your Novel! The Workshop With Jack
with Jack Smith
April 15th, 2020
Get a good start on a novel in just ten weeks, or revise a novel you’ve already written. Free your imagination, move steadily ahead and count the pages!
The “I’ve Always Wanted To Write Fiction” Workshop
with Shelley Singer
April 22nd, 2020
Learn the basics of fiction writing and submit weekly writing for feedback from Shelley Singer, author of 13 novels. It's time to start.
See our full upcoming course schedule to find the class that matches your writing goals today!