The following is a list that supplements my craft talk at Storymakers Conference 2017. If you find any of it helpful that’s great, but it’s really meant to serve as an outline for my lecture, so the meat of most of it might not be readily apparent. Enjoy!
Making a character tree:
Feet: What are the basic and obvious facts about your character?
(Example follows for type of follow-up questions I’ll ask in the lecture. I only list this information on the Blog for the first topic.)
What do they look like?
What’s their occupation?
Surface level personal history.
--something embarrassing that has happened to him/her
--a failure they’ve suffered
--what is something they’re good at
Groin: What your character wants.
Heart: All they things they need in their life to function.
Throat: External personal.
50 practical questions I ask myself and expect my reader’s to see in the first three chapters. (On the Blog I provide the type of questions I ask to develop these questions in the lecture for the first question listed only.)
1. How do they get to school?
What I'm really asking myself:
What’s her socioeconomic status?
How much mobility is in her life?
What’s her level of independence and supervision?
2. What’s her schedule?
3. Can I chart her day on a calendar?
4. What does her week look like?
5. What big assignments does she have coming up?
6. Who are her three best friends?
7. How long of they been friends?
8. How do they hang out?
9. What are their friendship rules?
10. Is there something they collective want?
11. What is the exact age of your character?
12. Where was she born?
13. How many times has she moved?
14. Does your character feel popular or unpopular?
15. Is she happy?
16. Who does she have a problem with?
18. What do her parents do?
19. How does she feel about their jobs?
20. What bothers her about her parents?
21. What are her household responsibilities?
22. What family rituals do they have?
23. If I looked at their photo album, what would I see?
24.Do they have any art in the house?
25. Who was in charge of decorating it?
26. Does your character have a phone? 27. What rules exist for this?
28. What’s most important in my character’s room?
29. Does she want to change anything?
30. How important is her closet?
31. Can I describe what I see in there?
32. Where does she shop? 33. Eat?
34. Does she keep a journal? 35. What does she say in it?
36. Does she have a pet?
37. What are her responsibilities?
38. What would happen if her pet got sick?
39. What are three things your character would never do?
40. Can you make her do one?
41. If she went on a trip where would she want to go?
42. How connected is she to her extended family?
43. Has anything she loved ever died?
44. What’s her level of interest in sports?
45. Does she have any hang ups about her physical appearance?
46. What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to her?
47. What’s her greatest accomplishment and thing she’s most proud of.
48. What one word would she use to describe herself.
49. What would she buy in the vending machine?
Who are you quick list?
Favorite way to waste time.
Favorite person in the story who isn’t her friend. (Aspirational friendship)
Favorite article of clothing.
Favorite assignment she’s working on.
What gets her out of bed in the morning?
Least favorite food.
Activity she hates.
Least favorite person in the story. Can be a terrible enemy or lightweight pest.
Worst experience so far in her life.
Thing she hates to wear.
Teacher or other authority figure she doesn’t like.
Subject she struggles with.
Assignment she loathes.
What keeps her up at night?
These aren’t blanket dislikes. I’m trying to get at her reasoning and personal history. Why does she not like going to Idaho History?
What are the twenty things YOU want most in this world?
What are ten things that your character wants?
Where is there overlap? Do these lines cross?