Thursday, June 15, 2017

75 Questions to Help You Get to Know Your Characters

I'm trying this new thing where I get to know my characters before I start writing them. Novel idea, no? Here are 75 questions I compiled (meant to be answered as an omniscient character), a list I'm always adding to. Obviously, they won't apply for everyone, but they can help us understand how our fictional people would react in certain situations and what has shaped them and brought them to the present.

Hopefully finding some of this stuff out now will help us avoid some major editing headaches down the road. Feel free to borrow these questions at will!




Personality type:


Current city:

Living situation:



Mode of transportation:

Dream job:


Ghosts from your past?

Biggest fears:


Weird habits or quirks:


Number one goal/dream:

What’s stopping that?

Who’s stopping that?

What in the past makes you believe it’s impossible?




Hair color:

Hair length and texture:

Eye color and shape:

Skin tone:

Vocal quality:

Distinctive features:

Basic clothing “uniform”:

Frequently worn accessories:

Signature smell:


Who were you raised by?

What’s your family dynamic?

Relationship with mother:

Relationship with father:

Do you have any siblings? What’s that relationship like?

Any special extended family members? Why?

Family secrets:

Elephants in the room:

Who are your best friends?

Who do you consider your mentor(s)?

Who would you call when in trouble?

Who would you call to vent?

Who would you call for advice?

What’s a secret only your closest friends would know?

Dating history?

What generally makes your relationships fail?

What’s your love language?

Who do you wish you could be closer to?

Qualities that attract you to a friend or significant other?

Any pets?


In your bag?

On your nightstand?


Listening to?

Drink order?



Had to pack one bag because your home was on fire? What would be inside?

Got embarrassed? How would you react?

Lost your job? Do you have a backup plan?

Got angry? How would you react?

Were dumped? How would you cope?

Lost a loved one? How would you grieve?

Were nervous? What physical reactions would you have?

Wanted to flirt with somebody? Would you be good at it?

Were in an emergency situation? How would you handle it?


Place to hang out:



Sports teams:

Celebrity crush:





Material possession:


Do you get to know your characters before you start writing? What would you add to this list of need-to-knows?


Laurie Tomlinson is an award-winning contemporary romance author and cheerleader for creatives. She believes that God's love is unfailing, anything can be accomplished with a good to-do list, and that life should be celebrated with cupcakes and extra sprinkles. 

Previously a full-time book publicist, Laurie now serves as a virtual assistant and runs a freelance editing and PR consulting business called 1624 Communications

She lives with her husband and two small children in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her novella, That's When I Knew, released with the Love at First Laugh rom-com collection this spring, and her debut contemporary romance novel, With No Reservations, is now available wherever books are sold from Harlequin Heartwarming.

You can connect with Laurie on her website, Facebook page, and Twitter


kaybee said...

Laurie, these are good tips. I'm a plotter, but even pantsers need to know who they're writing about. Saves heartbreak later. I'm especially fond of the "elephant in the room" question. You can't have a story, historical or contemporary, without one.
I usually start a story with character and let the plot develop around that person, so I've got an inkling of the H and H when I sit down to write. But you can never know too much about them.
Kathy Bailey

Laurie Tomlinson said...

Sounds like you have a very reliable system in place! It's so important to know the elephant in the room so you can drop little clues and build suspense. :) The elephant in the room in my current story is why the best friends had a falling out. But still trying to work out why!