10 Writing Prompts to Help You Develop Your Characters

Continuing my brainstorming theme, I’ve dredged the depths of my brain for questions to ask yourself about your characters.  I don’t consider this list a comprehensive character questionnaire–those are useful tools, certainly, but whenever I try to fill one out I end up dissatisfied with the dry and often irrelevant nature of some of the questions.  I’m calling these prompts instead, because you can cherry-pick the ones that seem best suited to your character; and you can answer them simply in one sentence if you like, but you could also delve deep and write up a whole study, if something inspires you.

(For space and simplicity, I’m going to use “they” pronouns in place of repeating “your character” endlessly.)

  1. Do they remember their dreams, and if so, what do they dream about?
  2. If they could change one decision made in their past, what would they do differently, and how would their life be changed by it?
  3. If they lost their home and belongings to a disaster (fire, tornado, etc.) where would they go?  Who would they stay with, and why?
  4. What qualities do they value most in their friends and loved ones?
  5. Who in their family is most important to them, and why?
  6. What aspects of themselves do they try hardest to hide from others?
  7. If your character has a secret, who else in their life knows, and why are they trusted with it?
  8. What skill or hobby do they want to learn, but haven’t?  And what has prevented them from learning it?
  9. What would motivate them to uproot themselves from their current life and start over elsewhere?  Could something even do that?
  10. Under what circumstances would they commit a crime, and how serious a crime would it be?

Have fun poking and prodding at your darlings with these.

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