Assignment #3: Character Questionnaires

In case you missed the first two assignments I posted last year, you can find them on my blog. Assignment 1 is on beat sheets (super important for everyone, as I’ve yet to have a mentee who didn’t need help in some form with pacing. It’s a very common problem.) and assignment 2 is on finding a CP (also super important so you can find your tribe). For this assignment, we’re going to talk a little bit about character questionnaires. What they are, how they work, and why you need them.

character questionnaireWhat are they?

They’re pretty simple. It’s a list of questions you answer as your character. If you google character questionnaires, you’ll find loads of examples on questions you can use. I have a total of 300+ questions covering almost twenty pages. Yes, it’s a lot, but it has always helped me get in the mind of my characters. I use Scrivener and a couple years ago tackled the project to break them down into categories for ease of finding the answers I need at a later time.

How do they work?

The idea is to answer the questions rapid style (remember playing the word association game by saying the first thing that came to mind? That’s exactly what you’re doing here.). You don’t want to think about how your character would answer it; you just want to answer it. Another cool tidbit: the questions you leave unanswered sometimes tell as much about the characters as their actual answers do.

Why do you need them?

For one major reason: deeper and more consistent POV. If you know your character inside and out (which you will by the time you’re done answering these), you’ll have an easier time portraying that on the page and you won’t get as easily stuck when you come to a part in the book in which you’re not sure how your character would react.

I fill this out for my hero and my heroine in every single book I write. It’s a lifesaver for me and allows me to fast draft novels because I’m so in tune with how my characters think and act.

Any questions? Leave me a comment or head over to Twitter and fire away. And if any of you are super hardcore, Type A writers and want my ridiculously long character questionnaire, leave me a comment with your email and I’ll send it along. For the rest of you, just google “character questionnaires” and combine/cut/edit till your heart’s content to get something that works for you.

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  1. Hi Brighton! I would love to get your questionnaire. I am starting a new MS, and have been looking for one that is extensive. Thanks so much for being such a great help and resource for other authors! I’ve learned so much from you!

  2. Hi, I’d love a copy of your character questionnaire if you’re still sending them out. My email is: zoe at zoeashwood dot com.
    Thank you!

  3. I would love a copy of your questionnaire when you send out the next batch. Thanks! kbrookemt(at)gmail(dot)com

  4. Is it too late to get a questionnaire? I’ve been away from my computer the past couple of days and saw this. I would love one if you could send it!!!

  5. Sign me up too! My characters need more meat on their bones. bethanyr32 (dot) editing (at) gmail dot com.

  6. Yes, please! Vacircac at hotmail dot com. Question: You said you answer all for hero and heroine. Are there some questions you consider vital for asking other minor characters? How about the antagonist/villain?

    1. Hi! I only fill one out for my hero and heroine, but that’s because I write romance between only two people. If I were writing, say, an epic fantasy, I’d probably want to fill one out for all main characters and possibly the antagonist. It’s really up to you. You can do it for as many or as few as you want, and you can answer as many or as few questions for each of them.

  7. I would love a copy of this, as my mentor has me working on character and adding a new POV!
    Ink in the book at gmail dot com

    Thank you!!

  8. *raises hand* I would LOVE to see your questionnaire. I have one that I’ve cut/pasted together but I hate it. (Thank you for sharing!)

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