Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Have You Completed A Character Questionnaire?

Complete a character questionnaire for each of your main characters or even secondary characters that play a vital role in your story. This way you will know your character(s) well before you start writing about them.

Fill in as much information about them as possible. Don’t only answer what you will need in your story. The objective here is to get to know your character till he becomes a ‘live’ person in your mind.

So let’s begin…

1. In a few sentences write down a summary of the plot

2. Character’s personal details

a) First name
b) Surname
c) Age

3. In a few sentences write down the character’s back story (a bit about his background)

4. The role of the character in your story

a) What are character’s goals?

b) What are character’s motivations?

c) What is the character’s conflict?

d) How will the conflict stop the character from reaching his goal?

e) What is he going to do to overcome the conflict?

f) What problems will crop up during the story?

g) How will those problems get worse?

h) What will the character do to overcome those problems?

i) How will he resolve the conflict?

j) How will your character’s background influence how he behaves in your story?

k) What is the relationship with other characters, if any, in your story?

5. Physical Descriptions

a) Height
b) Eye colour
c) Hair colour
d) Hairstyle
e) Hair length
f) Complexion
g) Shape of face
h) Body type
i) Weight

6. How does his expression change when…

a. He’s with a loved one
b. He’s with someone he dislikes
c. He’s with his boss
d. He’s with a colleague

7. Personality

a) Type? (shy, outgoing, insecure, dominant etc)

b) Distinguishable traits?

c) Mental scars? (Complexes etc)

d) Ambitions?

e) Sense of humour?

f) Fears?

g) Anxieties?

h) Phobias?

i) Overall personality?

j) How does his personality change when he’s experiencing different emotions?

k) How does he act when he feels confident?

l) How does he act when he feels inadequate?

m) What gestures does he use when he talks and thinks?

n) How does he walk? With confidence? Does he slouch or stride?

o) What mannerisms does he have? (Does he fold his arms? Does he flick his hair?)

p) How does he speak? (Clearly, mumble, confidently, drawl etc.)

q) His voice? (Rich, loud, soft, etc)
r) His vocabulary? (Casual, formal, illiterate etc)

s) What does he think when he’s alone?

t) Does he have any secrets he hasn’t disclosed to anyone?

u) His prejudices?

v) Dominant motives?

w) Values most?

x) Desires most?

y) How does he treat those around him? (children, superiors, etc)

z) Any vices or virtues?

8. Likes and dislikes

a) Favourite colour, food, etc

b) Favourite music?

c) Taste in clothing?

d) Does character like something in particular?

e) Does character dislike something in particular?

9. Lifestyle

a) Where does the character live (country, city)?

b) Does character live in a house, apartment etc

c) Does character like where he lives?

d) Does where he lives reflect what kind of person he is?

e) Does he have a favourite room? (Or a piece of furniture or other object etc)

f) Does he have a car? What type? Does the car reflect the person he is?

g) Any hobbies? Personal habits (neat, sloppy etc)

10. Background

a) Parents names

b) Parents occupations

c) Describe relationship with parents

d) Any siblings?

e) Describe relationship with siblings

f) What kind of childhood did the character have?

g) What kind of adolescence did the character have?

h) What kind of schooling did character undergo? (Private or public? Has this shaped who he is?)

i) What was the highest-level achieved in school?

j) Citizenship/Ethnic Origin?

k) In which country does he currently live?

l) If the country he lives in is not where he was born, why does he live there?

11. Character’s current position

a) Any friends?
b) Any enemies?
c) Acquaintances?
d) Has character been married before?
e) Has the character been engaged before?
f) Any children?
g) Most meaningful experience?
h) Any disappointments?
i) What is the character’s goal in life?
j) Attitude towards the opposite sex?
k) Attitude towards life?

12. Employment

a) What kind of job does character currently have?
b) What kind of jobs has the character had previously?
c) Is character content in current employment?
d) If not, what would be their dream job?

13. What do you feel for this character?

a) Admire
b) Love
c) Hate
d) Dislike
e) Like
f) Pity
g) Envy

Whatever you feel for this character, your emotions must be strong. If they are not, either build on this further or begin building another character altogether.

 © Nick Vernon

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Mark Twain's Set of Writing Rules

A tale shall accomplish something.

The episodes of a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale, and shall help to develop it.

The personages in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others.

The personages of the tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit sufficient excuse for being there.

When the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighbourhood of the subject in hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say.

When the author describes the character of a personage in his tale, the conduct and conversation of that personage shall justify said description.

When a personage talks like an uneducated loser, he shall not act like an Oxford graduate.

Crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader by either the author or the people in the tale.

The personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausibly set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable.

The author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages of his tale and in their fate; and that he shall make the reader love the good people and hate the bad ones.

The characters in a tale should be so clearly defined that the reader can tell beforehand what each will do in a given emergency.

A tale can be interesting, the characters believable - but the reader won't read enough of it to find out if the language of the story is awkward or unclear. To prevent this, Twain's Rules require that the author shall: SAY what he is proposing to say, not merely come near. USE the right word, not its second cousin. Eschew surplus matters. NOT omit necessary details. AVOID slovenliness of form. USE good grammar. EMPLOY a simple, straightforward style.