Is it time to ask your character some questions?

Yes, I’m probably going out on a limb here by asking you to talk to a fictional character – which can be further construed as asking you to talk to yourself. (Though recent articles say that talking to yourself isn’t necessarily a bad thing – see here.)

Characters are rarely just numbers and words on a page. There’s more to them than that more often than not.

So why not ask your character, on paper or out loud, a bit about themselves? Consider it an interview. I’ve done it for characters in my pale attempts at writing fiction (had a long talk with a serial killer once that unnerved me a bit). But what do you ask?

There’s the usual stuff psychobabble stuff like:

  • What was your mother like?
  • Where did you grow up?
  • Who were your friends? Your enemies?
  • How was your relationship with your father?
  • When did you realize you wanted more for yourself than an average life? (Most characters lead extraordinary lives.)
  • Why are you here?

But how about some not so obvious questions… A recent article by Alicia Rasley at WritersDigest.com brought up 9 interesting questions to ask… Here’s a few from that article…

  • When you walk into a party, what do you notice first? The mood? The people? The decorations? The things that need to be fixed? The background music? The food on the buffet table? Whether or not you fit in?
  • Do you usually notice problems around you? What is your response? Do you write an angry letter to the editor? Shrug and move on? Analyze what’s wrong and how to fix it? Take it as evidence that the world is falling apart? What about problems within yourself?
  • Are you more interested in the past, the future or living in the now?Are you one to keep holiday traditions? If you had to move tomorrow, how long would it take you to make new friends?
  • How do you decide if you can trust someone? By experience with this person? First impressions? Intuition? Do you test the person somehow? Or are you just generally disposed to trust or not to trust?
  • Are you a deliberate, careful speaker, or do you talk without thinking first? Do you use slang, or do you use diction your old English teacher would approve?

I think these are interesting questions to ponder on a quiet evening or afternoon. Any extra tidbits you learn about your character makes it more interesting to play in my book. It’s those little things that sometimes make a huge difference.

Where does all this lead? Hard to say. You might write up a small biography for your character that you can pass along to your GM. You might simply compile a list of adjectives to remind yourself about your character’s personality and quirks. This could even be useful for a GM trying to further define the party’s arch nemesis or discover the motivations behind a local lord who thinks the PCs should be tossed out of town on their rumps…

What do you think? Have you spoken with your characters recently?

–Fitz

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