Questions about characters (writing fiction)

27 Nov

Some simple programming to help a neophyte writer

A quick search of the net found many lists of questions to ask about the characters in one’s story (for instance 100 Character Development Questions for Writers). A few minutes work netted me a bunch of questions like this:

  1. Who is an actor you can’t stand?
  2. What is your worst childhood memory?
  3. Where do you live now?
  4. What is this character’s greatest fear?
  5. Have you visited any interesting places for work?
  6. What is more important – sex or intimacy? Why?
  7. What makes your character laugh out loud?
  8. What are your grandparents’ names?
  9. What is the first historical event you remember? (The Great Depression, Kennedy’s assassination, the moon landing, September 11th)?
  10. When will you be able to retire?

I ran some tidy-up code over the list and ended up with 290 questions about characters. (At some stage I’ll add questions about places, events, and objects as well).

With my questions in hand, I whipped up a (very crude) storage format for the characters in my story. In this case it looked a bit like this:

Person:  Sarah, descr=Sister

Place: Sarah_Flat

Person: Mark

My next step was some code to read in the list of people, read in the list of questions, then randomly ask question A about character B (recording the answers for later review) and looping around asking more questions until I got tired of it.

  • Asking a question

This is all very simple stuff, but I was suprised by some of the answers that popped into my head as my computer interrogated me. At the end of a very short time (in between fixing dumb bugs in the program – as is often the case in the simplest of programs) I found I had some useful background developing around my characters. Well worth the time spent writing it, and it should be a good way to fill in the odd five or ten minutes of spare time.


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