Monday, August 26, 2013

Ten:Five Questions

By Pamela

When you first meet me you might notice my eyes but probably not--they're not particularly big or an unusual color. Hazel, really. Unless I'm wearing a particular shade of blue and then you'd say they are blueish-hazel. My hair? Shoulder-length, auburn-ish--depending on the box I've used to color out the grey. Average height. Average weight. (OK, this is getting a little depressing.) An accent? Midwest speed-talk, a bit nasaly with a hint of southern twang from spending nearly 20 years way-way south of the Mason Dixon Line.

Does this seem normal to you? Does to me!
But if you started to dig, really ask me questions, some weird stuff might come out. Not crazy-weird but different-than-you-weird. I'm boringly domestic in that I love to bake and cook. I sew my own drapes and pillows. I feel empty if I skip church. I got divorced at 25 but have been remarried for 22 years. My little toes are hideous and I feed my dog the last two bites of my yogurt every morning. I like to iron. I was 15 before I ever stayed in a hotel room; 20 before I ever rode in an airplane. I have a particular fondness for flea markets, antique malls and thrift stores. I'm adept with a bow and arrow and could survive in the wilderness for days if I had a fishing pole and some matches. And some water. And a knife would be good.

So, if I were a character in your novel, what would make me different than the other characters in your story? At first glance, I'm average. Dull, even. But ask me some questions and suddenly I'm a little different than the other moms who drop their girls off at the neighborhood elementary school. How well do you know your characters?

Here is a list of ten categories with five questions in each that might help you learn a bit more about your characters. Maybe start with your main character and then go from there. Will you need or even use all this in your novel? Not likely. But knowing it will help if your character ends up in a situation you didn't see coming. Who we are and where we've been factor into how we react to events that happen in our lives.

1. Childhood 
Where did she grow up?
Who was her best friend?
Did she have siblings?
Did her parents stay married?
What kind of student was she?

2. Family and Friends
Does she have children?
Is she married?
Does she stay in touch with distant relatives?
Does she have a best friend?
How much would she tell someone she just met?

3. Health and wellness
What does she eat?
Does she drink or smoke?
Does she exercise?
Does she regularly visit a dentist/doctor/therapist?
Has she ever had a major health episode?

4. Appearance
What does she look like--height/weight/age?
What type of clothing does she wear?
Is she aging gracefully or getting Botox?
What does she sleep in?
Heels or flats; sandals or tennies?

5. Lifestyle 
What kind of car does she drive?
What type of house does she live in?
Where does she shop?
What part of the country does she live in?
What does she do for fun?

6. Humanitarianism
Does she volunteer?
What is she most passionate about?
Does she own a pet?
Does she give money to any causes?
Is she aware of events beyond her social circle?

7. Quirks
Does she have any annoying habits?
Is there a particular word or phrase she often uses?
Does she whistle/sing/hum when she walks/showers/cleans?
Does she talk with her hands or frowns when she's deep in thought?
Does she have an unusual talent?

8. Pleasures
Does she like to read or watch movies or both?
If she had an entire day to herself, what would she do?
What's her one indulgence?
What food would be her "last meal" choice?
How does she view sex?

9. World view and Technology
Is she political?
Does she watch/listen to the news?
Does she believe in God?
Does she own the latest gadgets/phone?
Could she change a flat tire?

10. Traumatic events
What is the worst thing that has happened to her?
What does she fear most?
What would she do if confronted by a killer/rapist/robber?
What keeps her awake at night?
If she had one do-over, what would it be?

There are many more questions you should be prepared to answer about your main character as they apply to your story. Celebrity crush? Favorite song? One regret? The list is endless! But maybe this will give you a place to start. What will you learn about your character today that you didn't know?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. LOVE the accompanying photo! And that we were raised so well we can take care of ourselves, especially with a bow and arrow!

    Your character stuff was good too...

  3. Thanks, Amy. We are a resilient, resourceful pair!

  4. I am so happy to hear another person in Texas use tennies in a sentence. My friends look at me weirdly and have no idea what I'm talking about. My kids tell me they say tennies to me but to nobody else just to humor me. And THAT is something else different about us transplants to North Texas! :)
    GREAT post!

    1. I have some other weird colloquial words and phrases I've learned to filter, too, Julie. Maybe not even colloquial so much as familial. Funny how you think every family is like yours until you step out in the world and see otherwise. Thanks for your compliment. :)

    2. Those are best to keep within the family. I know whereof you speak...

    3. Yes, my wips are sealed.

  5. Great post, Pamela. I really like your list of questions...and am impressed by your outdoor skills!

    1. Thanks, Cindy. I'm waiting to be called up as an extra in one of The Hunger Games movies.


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