Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Twenty Questions

In a workshop I recently attended, we did an exercise I wanted to share. Quite simply, it was to list twenty questions we’d like to answer about a character. As all of the exercises were, this was done quickly, the better to tap in to the subconscious. These were my twenty:

  1. What are her religious beliefs? Does she believe in God? Belong to a particular church or religion?
  2. What does she believe happens after we die?
  3. Does she believe that passion can be sustained in a long term relationship?
  4. What is her favorite flavor of ice cream?
  5. Does she read, and if so, who is her favorite author? What are her favorite books?
  6. What does she think of TV? If she watches, what shows does she watch?
  7. Does she like to cook? Is she any good at it?
  8. What are her most personal thoughts about her children?
  9. Does she have close friendships, and if so, with whom?
  10. What kind of relationship does she have with her mother?
  11. How does she feel about money? About wealth?
  12. How important are material things to her?
  13. Does she think back on any of her former lovers with longing or regret?
  14. Does she have any annoying habits or idiosyncrasies?
  15. Is she a good driver, or a poor driver?
  16. Does she have any phobias?
  17. Is she exceptionally talented or skilled at something?
  18. Is she unusually challenged in any area?
  19. What is her decorating style?
  20. What kind of clothing does she wear?
What kinds of things do you think would be particularly interesting to know about one of your characters?


Charles Gramlich said...

Good questions, all. I especially think the religious on is important, though I'd focus more on the person's religious upbringing rather than their "current" beliefs.

Lisa said...

Charles, thanks so much for commenting and that's a great point. A friend and I were talking about that very issue recently. If you were raised going to Sunday School or Synagogue or in some other organized religion, on a very deep level you can never completely get rid of those seeds that were planted, even your current beliefs run contrary to what you learned as a kid. That definitely creates some interesting internal conflict.

Charles Gramlich said...

I think of this because I was raised Catholic and it still has a profound impact on what I write and on some deep internal feelings althogh I'm no longer practicing the religion.

Patti said...

i am always fascinated by the minutia of the characters. as in life i think that speaks volumes more than any question i could think of.

oh, and i wonder: would she end a sentence with a preposition.

Lisa said...

Charles, actually during that discussion we were specifically talking about the nearly always permanent affect an early immersion in Catholicism has and we agreed that even if your belief system changes completely later on in life, somehow there is a creeping fear/guilt that stays with you.

Patti, ha! Definitely something to think about! Lot of us who do that around :) I love it when characters say something unique to them. I read Ravelstein, by Saul Bellow recently and the lead character had a habit of saying, "the ah, the ah" a lot when he was in the middle of a sentence. I could hear his voice.

Therese said...

Here's one for the list: What's the worst things that happened to her (or him) in childhood?

Lisa said...

Therese, I love that one! That would work really nicely for a lot of reasons and could be used in a lot of ways. Excellent.

Larramie said...

What's the BEST thing that happened to her/him in childhood? And does s/he believe in her/himself?

Yes, Lisa, I realize those are two questions but the first was a necessary follow-up to Therese's. ;)

Lisa said...

Larramie, you are so right. We tend to get so caught up in the drama of the bad parts that we often overlook the good. Does s/he believe in her/himself...THAT is a great question.

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