"I write for the same reason I breathe - because if I didn't, I would die." ~ Isaac Asimov

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Writerly Wednesday - Character Questions and Outlining

Hello, everyone! Welcome to another week of Writerly Wednesday, a weekly meme I created to talk about all thing writerly, whether I'm introducing you to a new author I found (like last week with J.C. Isabella), talking about my own adventures in publishing, or giving out writerly advice, as I'm doing this week. Today I want to talk about developing characters with questions and outlining a plot, two things I didn't realize went together so intricately until I started doing one without the other. :)

Character Questions
When developing characters, you really need to know more than just the basics: height, weight, hair color, eye color, etc. You need to know what makes them tick, what their motivations are, and how they would react in various situations. One way to get to know them better is to answer questions about them. I like to treat it like an interview, sometimes going so far as to write out the scene to get body language as well. A couple great sites I found for character questions include:

http://www.writingclasses.com/InformationPages/index.php/PageID/106 This one is from Gotham Writers Workshop and has 2 questionnaires that can be downloaded in a Word doc to better utilize. I like that they are short questionnaires and ask some great questions.

http://www.squidoo.com/character-development-questions Squidoo has a great questionnaire here that breaks it down into categories, from moral beliefs to specific knowledge, and of course the all important question: why should your audience care about this character?

Plot Outlines
Before I give examples, I just want to point out that until recently (the last couple months), I was pretty much a pantser. I would start writing a book and THEN I would figure out where it was going and write down some of the details. With my newest WIP, I'm actually breaking down the chapters into scenes and with every scene, I'm figuring out where the story is going and what will push it forward. This is new for me (though not new to the publishing/writing world). So, I've come to realize the importance of outlining before writing and want to share a few ideas with you about it.

http://selfpublishingteam.com/6-writing-outline-templates-and-3-reasons-to-use-them/ This site give 6 different outlining templates and how to use them. It also discusses why outlining is important.

http://www.darcypattison.com/plot/29-plot-templates/ This site gives several different plot outline templates. My favorite template is adopted from  Joe Campbell's Hero Journey. There are some on here that I haven't heard of before, but look interesting and ideal to use.

Obviously, knowing your characters is just as important as knowing your plot. Now, I will say that Googling either idea gives you thousands of sites to explore. The ones I shared here are just a couple that caught my attention and that I have recommended to other friends.

How about you? Are you a plotter or pantser? How do you like to outline (if you do)? And what do you do to get to know your characters before you start writing?

Happy Writing!


  1. I have a big list of character questions, one that I picked up a long time ago. It gets really specific, down to religious beliefs, reactions in social situations, etc. I don't use the entire list for every character (that would take forever!) but I do use it to flesh out my characters by picking a few specific questions and answering them.

    1. That's great, Abbey! I too have a list of questions I picked up somewhere that I use. :)Thanks for stopping by!