Monday, December 3, 2012

Character Development Series - Question #1

For the next few weeks I'll be offering a series of questions that will help you get to know your characters better, and also offer exercises for understanding how they'll relate to your story. These are designed to help you understand why your character says and does anything on the page--and to help you write layered, realistic people. 

These questions can be helpful for anyone from your protagonist, to your villain, to the lady at the corner store who only shows up three times.

Use them to make your characters breathe - and maybe to spark inspiration if you're struggling.

QUESTION #1A: What kind of impression does your character think they give to others the first time they meet?

QUESTION #1B: What kind of impression do they they think they give to strangers when they walk into a room? (i.e. whether or not they speak to them).

Keep in mind: Real people aim to make an impression--but what they do and say to achieve that, may not have the effect that they want. So this question focuses on what the character thinks of themselves. You can then extrapolate that into how they act as a consequence. And determine if they're successful.


In the book my agent is currently editing, the protagonist (Stacy) is extremely insecure. She's been bullied significantly since the age of twelve.

Stacy believes that when she meets peers for the first time they'll already have heard of her reputation and think she's uncool and annoying. It makes her nervous and self-deprecating in her humor. However, when she meets adults, she believes she's good at communicating and appearing "mature", so she demonstrates a lot more confidence.

If she walked into a roomful of strangers she'd be scared. She'd think her clothes weren't right and might spur people to make fun of her. She thinks that people might meet her and decide they don't want her there. So she'd draw a lot of attention to herself, hoping to impress others so they would like her. She wants to be seen as the life of the party, so pushes herself out there and tries to be funny in the hopes of making others feel comfortable around her so they'll like her.

Your Turn: Any questions? If not, tell us about one of these answers for your protagonist.


  1. Interesting question! The protagonist of the novel I'm working on now thinks that he scares people when they see him for the first time (he's tall and blind and very skinny). He is quite correct in his opinion because he feels defiant about his condition and so he always presents himself in a challenging way to strangers and succeeds in intimidating them.

    I was sort of vaguely aware of this fact about him, but it's nice to have your question to help me formulate my idea. So thank you for this blog post!

  2. Great questions. Looking forward to the rest of the series.