To submit requests for assistance, or provide feedback regarding accessibility, please contact support@masterclass.com.

Writing

Writing Character Development: 45 Questions to Ask Your Characters

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 8, 2020 • 3 min read

Do you know what your main character would do if all of their friends forgot their birthday? What about if they found a hundred-dollar bill on the ground? These kinds of questions (often called “character development questions”) are a great way to help you breathe life into your characters in the first draft of your short story or novel.

Save

Share


David Mamet Teaches Dramatic WritingDavid Mamet Teaches Dramatic Writing

The Pulitzer Prize winner teaches you everything he's learned across 26 video lessons on dramatic writing.

Learn More

What Is a Character Interview?

In order to develop characters that feel like real people to your readers, you’ll need to understand your characters from every angle. One way to do this is to conduct a character interview, where you ask questions about your character as if you were interviewing the.

Try:

  • What your character wants
  • What your character needs
  • Your character’s personality traits
  • How your character thinks
  • How your character feels
  • What big events are in your character’s life and backstory
  • Your character’s quirks

4 Reasons to Conduct a Character Interview

There are plenty of ways to get to know your characters, but a popular technique is to “interview” your character—“ask” them a list of questions as if they were real, and then write down your character’s “answers.” Character interviews are a great place to start when developing a character, because:

  1. You can do them early on in the writing process—even before you start writing.
  2. You can learn a wide variety of details, from your character’s eye color to their deepest character traits.
  3. You can use them to help overcome “writers’ block.” If you’re feeling stuck and uninspired to write, a character questionnaire can help get the creative juices flowing without feeling too much like writing.
  4. You can use them for any character—from your main character to the ones who only show up for a page.

Below are a few interview questions you can ask your characters to help you get to know them!

David Mamet Teaches Dramatic Writing
Judy Blume Teaches Writing
Malcolm Gladwell Teaches Writing
James Patterson Teaches Writing

8 Questions About Your Character’s Physical Appearance

  1. How do they style your hair?
  2. What kind of clothing do they wear?
  3. Do they wear makeup? What kind?
  4. Do they consider themselves fat or skinny?
  5. What’s their nationality?
  6. Do they have any birthmarks?
  7. What is their skin tone?
  8. What’s their face shape?

13 Questions About Your Character’s Background and Lifestyle

  1. Where were they born?
  2. Who are their parents?
  3. Where do they live?
  4. What do they do for a living?
  5. What is their greatest achievement?
  6. What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to them?
  7. If we searched their name on Google, what would we find?
  8. When was the first time they fell in love?
  9. What is their biggest secret?
  10. What is their greatest regret?
  11. Do they have any bad habits?
  12. Did they attend high school? College?
  13. What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to them?

9 Questions About Your Character’s Interests

  1. What’s their favorite movie?
  2. What’s their favorite food?
  3. What TV shows do they watch?
  4. What do they like to do for fun?
  5. Do they have any hobbies?
  6. What’s their favorite color?
  7. What is the greatest extravagance they allow themselves?
  8. What is their most treasured possession?
  9. Which living person would they most want to meet? Which dead person?

MasterClass

Suggested for You

Online classes taught by the world’s greatest minds. Extend your knowledge in these categories.

David Mamet

Teaches Dramatic Writing

Learn More
Judy Blume

Teaches Writing

Learn More
Malcolm Gladwell

Teaches Writing

Learn More
James Patterson

Teaches Writing

Learn More

9 Questions About Your Character’s Relationship

  1. Who do they consider their closest friend or best friend?
  2. Do they have a romantic partner?
  3. Which family members are they close with?
  4. Who do they share your deepest secrets with?
  5. Do they have any co-workers they’re close with? Any they can’t stand?
  6. Who do they trust? Who do they trust?
  7. Who would they turn to for help?
  8. What is the relationship like with their parents?

6 Questions About Your Character’s Thoughts and Emotions

  1. What’s their spirit animal?
  2. What are their biggest pet peeves?
  3. Do they consider themselves an introvert or an extrovert?
  4. What does perfect happiness look like to them?
  5. What is their greatest fear? What keeps them up at night?
  6. Are they a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty kind of person?

Want to Learn More About Writing?

Think Like a Pro

The Pulitzer Prize winner teaches you everything he's learned across 26 video lessons on dramatic writing.

View Class

Become a better writer with the MasterClass Annual Membership. Gain access to exclusive video lessons taught by literary masters, including Neil Gaiman, David Baldacci, Joyce Carol Oates, David Sedaris, Dan Brown, Margaret Atwood, and more.

Save

Share