Writing Tips

Writing Tip: The 3 Top Questions You Need to Ask Your Characters

So you want to write a book, huh?

For some, that’s easy; for others, it’s much harder. A place that all writers must eventually come to is character development. A good book is marked by its strong and authentic characters. I don’t know about you, but I can read just about anything as long as I love the characters. If I cannot stand the characters, I could not care less about an interesting plot. (Some people feel the opposite, but hey, that’s just me).

With Characterization being such an important part of the writing journey, it’s up to the author to really get to know their characters, but that can be easier said than done. Try going to a google search bar and type in “Questions to Ask Characters.”

Here are some results you might see:

  • Top 10 Questions to ask . . .
  • Top 50 Questions to ask . . .
  • Top 99 Questions to ask . . . (why not 100 at that point?)

It’s clear that this can get out of control real quick. Now, granted, some of these lists are more about devloping character profiles (likes and dislikes, personal history, physical appearance, etc.). For today’s tip, I’m going to narrow it down. When you begin your writing and you need to know the most important things about your characters, you need to ask them only three questions.

1. What does your character want?

This question relates to the plot of your entire book. What is your character’s motive for every action that they take? Bilbo Baggins wants to get back to the Shire. Katniss Everdeen wants to survive and save her sister. Luke Skywalker wants to bring back balance to the force. These wants, these motives, drive every action your character takes.

2. What is your character’s greatest strength?

I don’t mean how much can they lift. I mean, what is it about your character that attracts not only readers but the other characters. What makes your character useful to accomplishing the overall plot of the book? Biblo was small and unnoticeable (which doesn’t seem like a strength but it made him dang useful to those around him). Katniss was “charming as a slug,” according to Haymitch, but her love of her sister won over the crowds. Luke never gave up hope in himself, the force, and even the light inside his father.

3. What is your character’s greatest weakness?

Characters must be flawed. How often have we heard that? Phyiscal, emotional, and mental flaws are a must! Want to know why? Because that is reality. What flaw is going to get in the way of your character accomplishing their goals and make your writing interesting? Bilbo prefers the comforts of his home to any moral quest and struggles against adventure (at first at least). Katniss is completely anti-social which is extremely problematic when her survival depends on people liking her. Luke Skywalker can be brave, but also headstrong and make foolish decisions.

When it comes to your characters, you need to know why they act the way they do, what about them will make your readers root for them, and what about them will make your reader grab the book and say, “oh, come on!”

What Character Development Questions would you add to this list? Make sure to let me know in the comments below!


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