Character Building: 25 Basic Questions

One of the most basic techniques known around the writing community for character building/development is the interview. You simply pull out a sheet of paper and fake a fictional interview with one of your characters, trying to pull out every bit of information that can be relevant for your story while building a cohesive and solid background. This is especially important when you use flashbacks or make your characters engage in personal questions – your ability as a writer shows up in these moments, since it can be hard to maintain the justly adapted personality between your character’s life stages.

These questions won’t be about basic things like eye our hair color; you have to make those out yourself before. These questions go deep into personal subjects that can make you find emotional triggers for your characters and further story development.

Note: some of these questions may not adapt to your story at all, mostly questions related to magic or other fantasy themes.

1 – As a child how did you feel towards your parents? Do you hold any regrets or grudges? If they are dead, was there anything left to say?

2 – As a child and teenager how did you act around your peers? Were you any different from the general stereotype in your community? Did you stand out negatively or positively?

3 – When happened your first contact with magic? Did your parents and/or siblings approve of that contact?

4 – How much did magic change your life? Was it a breaking point in your path or did it adapt to your experiences?

5 – Have you ever had any contact with the dead? Was it frightening, enlightening or funny? Did that experience, somehow, change your life?

6 – When did you leave home? Did that happen because life forced you to or did you leave willingly? Either way, were you sad or relieved to leave?

7 – Did you have any crush when you were a child/teenager? How did that experience change you? Did it went well or were you rejected?

8 – What are your addictions? Do you smoke, drink or take any drugs? How do you feel towards your addiction – are you willing to change and does that willingness make you hate yourself for not being able to change?

9 – How do you feel about the world around you? Do you think your way of thinking is similar to that of those around or do you feel apart in society? Do you hold any grudge about mankind in general?

10 – How do you feel about your country’s  ruler/s? Do you approve of their ruling? Did that ruling, anyhow, interfere with your natural life’s course?

11 – Have you ever had any mentor or teacher that helped you become who you are now? Do you feel grateful for their help or do you resent them and try to overcome their skills? If they are dead, are you trying to glorify their memory while in the practice of your skills?

12 – Do you have any meaningful possession? What is the story behind that object or amulet? Do you carry it always around you? Do you feel that being in the possession of that object has somehow changed your life?

13 – How do you feel about fighting? Do you think that the use of weapons while fighting is different then the use of magic or other arcane arts? Is there a weapon that you consider the most “glorified” or do you accept every fighting method in general?

14 – What about religion? Do you worship any gods or are considered an atheist? How did your religious background change your life and the opinion of those around you? Do you have any kind of religious obligations that interfere with your day-to-day life (i.e: praying at certain times of the day)?

15 – How does your religion adapt to the concepts of magic that you’ve learned? Is society accepting of those two concepts or do they conflict in any way? Has the use of magic ever interfere with your personal beliefs?

16 – Have you ever harmed someone you love? How? If you have, did they forgive you? If not, how has that resentment change your life? Was that experience a trigger for a major change in your path?

17 – How do you feel about evil in general (i.e: the dark forces, an evil sorcerer, a cruel ruler, etc)? What do you think that motivates their actions? Do you think they do what they do because they are simply evil or do you belief that their actions, in a twisted point of view, can be justified?

18 – Did you ever want to commit suicide? If so, what were the reasons that led you to it? What made you overcome that thought – was it fear of death, respect for loved ones or a sudden desire to do good? Do you use that experience to motivate your life?

19  – Have you ever killed someone? If so, what were the conflicting thoughts afterwards – did you consider it as a consequence of life’s natural course or did you feel like a murderer? If you have killed more than one person, how has the acceptance of death changed throughout your life?

20 – What was the most shocking and breaking-through moment in your life? Did it happen as a child, a teenager or as an adult? How did it change your motivations or you beliefs?

21 – What do you consider to be your life’s biggest failure? How has that notion interfered with your actions afterwards? Did that failure make you grow and develop as a person or make you dull and lifeless instead?

22 – How much do you rely on your loved ones? Are you wary towards them or do you trust them your own life? Has that trust or wariness ever harm you and make you feel like you needed to change your opinion towards others?

23 – How do you feel about your enemy/nemesis? Do you use that feeling as a drive for your actions or do you have a more passive attitude about it? What was the story or events that made them you enemy and how does society, your peers or loved ones think about that relationship?

24 –  What is your ultimate life goal? Are you trying to be recognized for your greatness or do you have a more honorable motif, like defeating an evil entity? Are your general goals aligned with your personal ones? Do you secretly want to become an artist or having a large family but are prevented to achieve those goals in order to fulfill your obligations

25 – What are your biggest fears? Do you have any phobia? If you do, is there a specific event in your life that can justify that phobias? How do you think you would react if your biggest fears came true?