Wednesday 8 May 2013

How to Create Characters from Thin Air (JuNoWriMo #3)

Characters are...well...essential to any story. Without the human factor there is no story so it's important to create unique but believable characters. Even if you don't quite have your plot figured out it's important to know your players.

So, your task for the next few days (the rest of the month really) is figure out who your main characters are going to be. They can change of course but have an outline ready.

Of course I'm not letting you go into this blind, what are you, crazy? I've provided a lot of questions that you should or could be answering about all of your main characters. You don't have to answer them all now (or ever) but the more you can answer the better you'll understand your character and the more you can play with them.


  1. Name (Full)
  2. Who Named Them?
    1. Why?
    2. What Does It Mean?
    3. Do They Like It?
  3. Nickname (what, why, who)
  4. Age
  5. Birth date
  6. Hometown
  7. Currently Location (how did they get there from 4.)
  8. Living Space
  9. Occupation
    1. Finances
    2. Health
    3. Intelligence Level
    4. Co-workers
    5. Boss
    6. Do they like their job?
    7. What is their dream job?
  10. Mode of Transportation
  11. Education
  12. Pets
  13. Family
    1. Mother
    2. Mother's Occupation
    3. Father
    4. Father's Occupation
    5. Sibling(s)
    6. Birth Order
    7. Close Relatives
    8. Distant Relatives
  14. Childhood
    1. School (how were their grades)
    2. Development
    3. Family Finances
    4. Social Skills
    5. Best Friend
    6. Enemies
    7. Family Dynamic
    8. Bedroom
    9. Extra Curricular Activities
  15. Any Trauma (physical or emotional)
    1. Most Traumatic Event
    2. How do they handle stress?
  16. Worst Mistake They Ever Made
  17. Past Relationships
    1. Who
    2. How Long
    3. Who Ended It
    4. How Did It End
    5. How Do They Feel About It
    6. Dream Date
    7. What Is Their Idea Of Romance?
  18. Past Careers
    1. First Job
    2. What Was Their Favourite Job
    3. Random Skills Learned
    4. List Other Jobs
  19. Significant Other(s) or Love Interests
  20. Best Friend
  21. Enemies
  22. Dominate Personality Traits
  23. Weak Personality Traits
  24. Introvert or Extrovert?
  25. Optimist or Pessimist?
  26. Emotional Responses
    1. Angry
    2. Happy
    3. Sad
    4. Frustrated
    5. Scared
    6. Tired
    7. Silly
    8. Confused
    9. In Love
    10. Hatred
    11. Anticipation/Anxiousness
    12. Grief
    13. Embarrassment
    14. Disgust
    15. Pity
    16. Excitement
  27. Quirk(s)
    1. Bad Habits
    2. Good Habits
    3. Pet Peeves
    4. Day or Night Person?
  28. Physical Traits
    1. Nationality
    2. Race
    3. Hair Colour
    4. Hair Length/Style
    5. Do They Prefer Their Hair Up or Down?
    6. Eye Colour
    7. Glasses or Contacts?
    8. Body Type
    9. Height
    10. Weight
    11. Build
    12. Speech Patterns
    13. What does their voice sound like?
    14. Physical Disabilities/Scars
    15. Do They Bruise Easily?
  29. Spiritual or Religious Beliefs
    1. Why do they believe this?
    2. Is it a family tradition?
    3. Do they actively participate/practice?
  30. Sexuality
    1. Sexual Orientation
    2. Turn Ons
    3. Turn Offs
    4. Views on Sex
    5. Sex Life
    6. Kinks (or lack of?)
    7. First
    8. Number
  31. Guilty Pleasure
  32. What relaxes them after a bad day?
  33. Secret Passion
  34. Clothing Style
  35. Dream Vacation
  36. Biggest Motivator (what drives them)
  37. Biggest Fear
  38. Most Prized Possession
  39. 3 Favourite Things
  40. 3 Least Favourite Things
  41. Favourite Food
  42. Favourite Drink
  43. Favourite Music Style/Song
  44. Favourite Movie/TV Show
  45. Favourite Book/Story
  46. Favourite Colour
  47. What do they like about themselves?
  48. What do they dislike about themselves?
  49. How would they describe themselves
    1. Their personality
    2. Their looks
    3. Their morals
    4. Their success
    5. Their vanity
    6. In One Word
    7. If they died tomorrow would they be happy with their life
  50. Favourite Childhood Memory?
  51. Biggest Accomplishment
  52. Most Embarrassing Moment
  53. Who means the most to them?
  54. What would they do if that person died?
    1. What if they were killed?
    2. If they could bring anyone back from the dead for one day who would it be?
  55. What Social/Political/Environmental Issues are they passionate about?
  56. Short Term Goals/Dreams
  57. Long Term Goals/Dreams
  58. If they were at the beach and saw someone struggling in the water, what would they do?  
  59. If someone who had been dating them for one month said "I love you!" how would they react?  
  60. If their prize possession was stolen, how would they feel?
  61. What would they do if they won three million dollars?
  62. How do they feel in crowds of unfamiliar people?
Whew, that's a lot to go through and answer. That's why these questions are just for your main characters. Choose a few characters (or create some) and fill out as much as you can.

Right now I can't even do this for any of my characters so I'm doing this with you guys. It's definitely a challenge but imagine who well you'll know this character after filling this out.

When you have filled it out, print it off and keep it where you'll be writing so you always have it on hand. And remember that you don't necessarily have to share any of these details in the story, but it's important for you to know the type of person you're dealing with.

Share any other character sheets or questions in the comments below.

AND don't forget to enter the giveaway for a homemade care package from me! (Details here)

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  1. I like this list because it's not overly specific and you can adjust it to whatever world you are writing in.

  2. I did these questions with my creative writing students this semester and got a good response on the exercise. I called out the question and gave them about two minutes to write down a response before moving onto the next question. Then I gave them the list of questions to take home, in case they missed one while writing.

    1. What Shakespearean character is your protagonist most like?
    2. What is your protagonist’s greatest weakness?
    a. How might this weakness lead to disaster for your protagonist?
    3. What physical attribute is your protagonist most proud of possessing?
    4. What one thing about his/her body would your protagonist change if given the opportunity?
    a. How can this one thing be changed into an invaluable asset for your protagonist?
    5. What is your protagonist obsessed with?
    6. What does your protagonist want most?
    a. What is your protagonist willing to do to get what he/she wants most?
    7. What specific memory haunts your protagonist and is the one memory he/she most wants to forget?
    8. What was the last foreign country (or state, or city) your protagonist visited?
    a. Why did he/she go to this country?
    b. What prized possession did he/she leave behind?
    c. Was it left on accident or on purpose?
    9. Who was the last person to say “I love you” to your protagonist?
    a. How long ago was that?
    b. How did it make your protagonist feel?
    10. What defines your protagonist?
    11. Name one person who has betrayed your protagonist
    a. Describe that betrayal.
    b. Has your protagonist forgiven this person?
    c. Has your protagonist forgotten this betrayal?
    12. Describe the space in which your protagonist sleeps each night.
    a. What object in this space is most important to your protagonist?
    b. What would happen if that object was destroyed?
    13. Think of the person that your protagonist loves most.
    a. How has your protagonist hurt this person in a way that is unforgivable.
    b. Can this person forgive your protagonist?
    c. How would being forgiven change everything for your protagonist?
    14. What word has the most meaning for your protagonist?
    15. What does your protagonist hold onto?
    a. What would happen if he/she let go?
    16. It’s said everyone has a safe place. Where is your protagonist’s safe place?
    a. What would happen if he/she could never go there again?
    17. What inner turmoil rages within your character?
    a. How has this inner turmoil negatively impacted your protagonist’s life?
    18. What one action is your protagonist most ashamed of?
    a. What has this one action cost him/her?
    19. Where is “home” for your protagonist?
    a. When was the last time he/she was there?
    20. How do you want to see your character change by the end of your story?


  3. I will have to try this! I've been spending a lot of time thinking of my characters but I haven't gone through any type of list. It will be good to have the details figured out before June!