Author Graeme Kinross-Smith developed questions for fiction writers to answer on behalf of the characters they create. Details are in his book “WRITER – a working guide for new writers”, Oxford Uni Press, Melbourne. Tutor Joan Rosier-Jones adapted these for New Zealand writers.

  1. How do they speak? How does their voice sound? Do they have peculiar speech patterns?
  2. Do they have a sense of humour? What makes them laugh?
  3. What are the six activities they most enjoy?
  4. What do they most fear?
  5. How do they feel about each parent?
  6. How – at present – do they regard their own death?
  7. How do they react to the death of a friend? Or to a stranger’s death?
  8. What are their six most important educative experiences?
  9. What are their major faults?
  10. What actions are they morally incapable of performing?
  11. What part does sex play in their lives? Openly or secretive?
  12. Which of their achievements give them most pride?
  13. Who are their mentors? Why these people?
  14. How do others see them?
  15. Are they compassionate? Are they cynical?
  16. What characteristics do they dislike in others?
  17. What are the most important things to them?
  18. How idealistic are they?
  19. How tolerant are they?
  20. How do they regard learning new information, knowledge and wisdom?
  21. How important is food to them?
  22. How materialistic are they?
  23. What do they consider to be the meaning of life?
  24. In what situations have they acted with moral courage?
  25. How impulsive are they?
  26. Have they travelled widely? Where to? Did they live there?
  27. Are they physically active?
  28. How do they dress? Casual? Height of fashion? Grunge?
  29. What do they consider the most dangerous ideas in the world?
  30. What is the most hopeful thing happening in their world?
  31. Do they work at changing themselves or their behaviour?
  32. How are they going to change?
  33. Do they contribute to society? In what way/s?
  34. How many close friends do they have? How long for?
  35. How do they regard ageing?
  36. How involved are they with their family – immediate and extended?
  37. Do they make up their minds easily? Do they change their mind just as easily?
  38. Who in their circle do they most dislike? Why?
  39. What do they dream about?
  40. Who in their circle do they most admire? Why?

These questions are prompts. Ask yourself others about the life and times of your characters. For instance, a cowboy or farmer would have a gun. Handgun or rifle? Calibre? Brand or make? New or family hand-me-down?

Answer these questions about yourself too. “Physician heal thyself” is wise advice from the Bible. “Writer know thyself ” applies equally!

By Graeme Kinross-Smith & Joan Rosier-Jones. Reproduced for Educational Purposes.