If So, Why?

The Ultimate Character Development Guide

Introduction

Think of your favorite movie, your favorite book, your favorite TV show, or even your favorite video game. Perhaps the first thing that comes to your mind is the setting, the situation that the plot of the story revolves around. Perhaps it’s a story about wizards in space.

However interesting the concepts and settings of a given story may be, though, they are nothing without one key ingredient: the characters. Characters add life and vibrancy to a story, and the best characters are detailed, nuanced, with thoroughly developed backstories and motivations.

Sure, the idea of wizards in space is cool, but the first memory one may recall of Star Wars IV: A New Hope could be Darth Vader entering the scene for the first time, Obi-Wan Kenobi sacrificing himself so that the other heroes are able to escape, or Luke Skywalker trusting in the Force and destroying the Death Star.

Each character in this film, and indeed in any given story, has a thorough, detailed back story that we only get the slightest hint of.

There’s a reason Darth Vader is a murdering personification of evil. It’s because something terrible happened to him in his past.

There’s a reason why Obi-Wan’s confrontation with Darth Vader is so fateful. It’s because it isn’t the first time that they’ve faced each other.
There’s a reason why Luke wants to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi. It’s because he has a boring, underwhelming life, and he wants to add significance to his existence by emulating his famous father.

Even before these story details were explicitly laid out in the Star Wars prequels, fans were daydreaming about Obi-Wan and Anakin, the Clone Wars, the Republic, and more.

As you write your story, you should strive to create characters that are just as well-developed. You want them to have lives, to have histories, to have experiences that affect their capacity to respond to a given situation, to have motivations that dictate the course of action they will take, and more.

It’s a daunting challenge to be sure, and even more so as your story grows to encompass more and more characters. So how can you as a writer develop fantastic characters for your stories?

The Key Is Time

Unfortunately, there is no magical button you can push in the middle of writing your manuscript that will cause all the hard work to be done and provide you with a perfect, fascinating character. You have to take the time to get into your character’s headspace, to become your character, to look at the world through their eyes.

It’s a lot of work, to be sure, but that’s where this eBook comes into play. Within these digital pages, you will find 850 questions that will activate your creative side and guide you towards your end goal of making amazing characters.

But those 850 questions aren’t all that you will find in this guide. You’ll also find 850 explanations to help you see the significance that your choice can have on the character, as well as the story as a whole.

Finally, you will find over 850 examples from popular media to demonstrate the effect that your answer may have on your work-in-progress.

My hope with this work is to help give you the tools you need to be able to pursue your dream of becoming a writer. Remember, no one’s alone in this business, in this culture, and no one’s ever succeeded without assistance.

Put in the time. Put in the effort. I have no doubt that you will be able to develop fascinating, interesting characters that can’t help but move your plot inexorably towards its destination. And as you traverse this literary landscape, don’t forget to enjoy the journey.

Table of Contents

Basic Information

  • Name
    • What is his name?
    • Why was he given his name?
    • Does he like his name?
      • Why or why not?
    • Does he have any aliases?
      • If so, why?
    • Does he have any nicknames?
    • What was the spirit behind his nicknames?
    • Has he ever tried to change his nickname?
  • Age
    • What is his age?
    • What is his birthday?
    • What does he do to celebrate his birthday?
    • What do others do to celebrate his birthday?
    • How does he feel about his current age?
    • Does he wish he was a different age?
      • If so, why?
    • Does his age influence the way he’s treated?
    • Does he enjoy getting older, or does he dread it?
  • Location
    • Where does he live?
    • Does he own, rent, squat, or live with someone else?
    • Does his location affect the way he sees himself?
      • If so, why?
    • Does his location affect the way others see him?
      • If so, why?
    • How big is his home?
    • Does anyone else live with him?
    • What is the condition of the outside of his home?
    • What is the condition of the inside of his home?
    • Does he like his home?
    • Where does he wish he lived?
    • Is he actively trying to move?
  • School
    • Where does he go to school?
    • What grade is he in?
    • How far is the school from his home?
    • How does he get to school?
    • What are his grades like?
    • What is his favorite class?
    • What class does he hate?
    • Does he put effort into his schoolwork?
    • Has he ever been sent to the principal’s office?
      • If so, why?
    • Has he ever been given detention?
      • If so, why?
    • Has he ever been given suspension?
      • If so, why?
    • Has he ever been expelled?
      • If so, why?
  • Employment
    • What does he do for work?
    • Where does he work?
    • How did he get his job?
    • How far does he live from his job?
    • What is the commute like?
    • What is his salary?
    • What does he do at his job?
    • Does he enjoy his job?
      • Why or why not?
    • Does he put effort into his job?
      • Why or why not?
    • Is he actively trying to advance to higher positions?
      • If so, why?
    • Does he wish he had a different job?
      • If so, why?
    • Have they ever threatened to fire him?
      • If so, why?
    • Has he ever threatened to quit?
      • If so, why?
  • Relationship Status
    • Is he in a relationship?
    • Who is he in a relationship with?
    • How long have they been together?
    • What is their anniversary?
    • How does he view their relationship?
    • Do they live together?
    • Do they have children?
    • Has he been in failed relationships before?
      • If so, what went wrong?
    • How do they feel about each other now?
  • Daily Life
    • What activities does his daily life consist of?
    • Who does he see in a typical day?
    • What is his morning routine like?
    • When does he go to work?
    • When and where does he eat lunch?
    • How late does he work?
    • Where does he go after work?
    • What does he do when he gets home?
  • Free Time
    • What does he do during breaks at work?
    • Does he participate in any time-wasters?
    • What are his hobbies?
    • What does he like to do in his free time?
    • Where does he go for day trips?
    • Where does he go for vacation?
  • Goals
    • What does he want to do with his life?
    • Does he have monetary goals?
    • Does he have material goals?
    • Does he have spiritual goals?
    • Does he have humanitarian goals?
    • Does he have family-related goals?
    • Does he have hobby-related goals?
    • Does he have career-related goals?
  • Pets
    • Does he have any pets?
      • If so, how many?
    • What types of pets does he have?
    • How long has he had them?
    • Has he taught them any tricks?
    • How would he describe his pets?
    • How attached is he to them?
    • If they were lost, what would he do to find them?
    • If they were to die, how would that affect him?
    • Has he ever had to give up a pet?
    • Has he ever had to put down a pet?

History

  • Birth
    • How old were his parents when he was born?
    • Where was he born?
    • What time was he born?
    • Was he born in a hospital, or somewhere else?
    • Was it a long or short delivery?
    • Did anything go wrong with his birth?
    • Does anyone resent him being born?
    • Was his existence a sore point for anyone?
    • Was he the product of cheating?
    • Did anyone suggest getting an abortion?
    • Who helped with his birth?
    • Were his grandparents or great-grandparents alive when he was born?
    • Who was there to see the newborn?
    • Who wanted to be there, but was unable to?
    • When did they name him?
    • When did they take him home?
    • Was he mixed up at birth?
    • Was he adopted out?
  • Childhood
    • Where did he live as a child?
    • Did his family move around often?
    • Did he ever run away?
    • What was his family’s economic situation?
    • Did it affect the way he was raised?
    • Did it affect his worldview?
    • Did he ever have to do things differently than others because of his financial situation?
    • Did he have to do chores?
    • How did he feel about him?
    • What were his favorites activities?
    • What were his least favorite activities?
    • Did he ever work on a project such as selling lemonade, delivering newspapers, or the like?
    • What did he learn from the experience?
    • What did he pick up on quickly?
    • What did he have difficulty picking up on?
    • What was his favorite toy?
    • What did he take with him everywhere he went?
    • Did he have any traumatic experiences?
    • How did he deal with them?
    • How did they affect his life?
  • Education
    • Did he enjoy school?
      • If so, why?
    • What was his attendance like?
    • Would he get there early or late?
    • Would he ever skip?
    • What subjects did he enjoy?
    • What subjects did he hate?
    • Was he a good student?
    • Did the teachers like him?
      • Why or why not?
    • Did other students like him?
      • Why or why not?
    • Did he have to deal with bullies?
    • How did he respond to them?
    • Did he have any support?
    • Did he follow the rules, or break them?
    • Did he ever get detention?
      • If so, why?
    • What was his attitude about it?
    • Did he cheat on tests?
      • If so, why?
    • Did he stay out late?
      • If so, why?
    • Did he sneak out of the house?
      • If so, why?
    • Did he go to parties?
    • Did he enjoy them?
    • Did he drink?
    • Did he do drugs?
    • Did he have sex?
    • Did he participate in extracurricular activities?
    • How long did he participate in those activities?
    • Was he learning an instrument?
    • Did he play sports?
    • Did he go to sporting events?
    • Did he help set up for homecoming?
    • Was he in any clubs?
    • Did he participate in science fairs?
    • Was he in art?
    • Did he go to prom?
    • Did he take anyone to prom?
    • Did he dance at prom?
    • Did he spike the punch?
    • Was he elected prom king?
    • What did he do after prom?
    • Did he graduate, drop out, or get his GED?
    • What led him to do so?
    • What was his GPA?
    • Did he have to take extra classes to graduate?
      • If so, why?
    • Did he have to do summer school?
      • If so, why?
    • Did he graduate early or late?
    • Who attended his graduation?
    • Did he go to college?
    • What type of classes did he take?
    • What did he study?
    • Did he want to attend college?
    • Did college affect any of his existing relationships?
      • If so, why?
    • Did he make any new friends at college?
    • Did he make any new enemies?
      • If so, why?
    • How did he pay for college?
    • Did he get a scholarship?
    • If so, what was the scholarship for?
    • Was it difficult for him to get that scholarship?
    • Did he play a sport?
    • Did his parents set up a college fund?
    • Did he save up money to go to college?
    • Did he receive an inheritance?
    • Did he work while going to college?
  • Work
    • What was his first job?
    • How much did he make?
    • How did he feel about it?
    • How many jobs has he had?
    • Did he ever make a drastic career change?
      • If so, why?
    • Has he ever moved for a job?
    • Has he ever been fired from a job?
      • If so, why?
    • Has he ever quit a job?
      • If so, why?
    • Has he ever been accused of misbehavior at a job?
    • Was the accusation justified?
    • Has he ever been injured on the job?
    • Did he receive a settlement?
    • What skills did his previous jobs teach him?
    • What relationships did he form at previous jobs that still affect his life today?
    • What was his favorite job?
    • Are there any jobs he wishes he never took?
      • If so, why?
    • Are there any jobs he wishes he still had?
      • If so, why?

Social

  • Family
    • Who are his parents?
    • How do they feel about his existence?
    • How did they raise him?
    • Were they strict or lenient?
    • Did they encourage misbehavior?
      • If so, how did that affect his life?
    • Did they smother him?
      • If so, how did he react?
    • Are his parents still together?
      • If not, does he feel responsible for their failed relationship?
    • How does that affect his actions?
    • Are both of his parents still alive?
      • If not, how did they die?
    • How does that affect him?
    • How does he feel about his parents?
    • Is he proud of them, or ashamed?
    • Does he want to emulate them, or be different?
    • Do they encourage or discourage him?
    • Do they try to manipulate his life?
      • If so, why?
    • How does he respond?
    • Is there something in his parents’ history that caused them to raise him the way they did?
    • Does he have a large family or a small one?
    • Does he have siblings?
    • How old are they?
    • When are their birthdates?
    • Are they still alive?
    • Do they get along?
    • Why or why not?
    • Do they live together, or are they separated?
    • Is there any resentment among siblings?
      • If so, why?
    • Is there any family drama?
      • If so, why?
    • Has anyone disowned him or someone else in the family?
      • If so, why?
    • Are there any tense moments at family reunions?
      • If so, why?
    • Does he have children?
    • Who did he have them with?
    • When did he have them?
    • How old are they?
    • Do they like him?
    • How does he raise them?
    • Does he have any trouble with any of his children?
    • How does he handle it?
    • Is he happy with his job as a parent?
    • Is there anything he wishes he could have done differently?
      • If so, why?
    • Do his children get along with each other?
    • Do they still live with him?
  • Friends
    • How many friends does he have?
    • How long have they been friends?
    • How did they become friends?
    • Did he put effort into building his friendships?
    • How do his friends feel about him?
    • How does he rank in his social circle?
    • Is he outgoing, reserved, or in between?
    • Does he seek out adventure, or try to talk the group out of it?
    • Do any of his friends depend on him?
      • If so, why?
    • Are his friends willing to spend money to help him?
    • Are his friends willing to spend time helping him?
    • Are his friends willing to expend energy to help him?
    • Would they go on adventures for or with him?
    • If he came home talking nonsense, would they believe him, or think he needs psychiatric help?
    • How does he feel about his friends?
    • Who is his best friend?
    • Who is his oldest friend?
    • Does he overlook or take advantage of any of his friends?
      • If so, how?
    • Who would he confide in during difficult situations?
    • Who does he try to keep up appearances for?
    • Is there anyone in his social circle that he wishes wasn’t there?
      • If so, why?
    • Is there anyone in his social circle that he mistrusts?
      • If so, why?
    • Is there anyone in his social circle that he has an unrequited love for?
      • If so, how long has he had those feelings?
    • Does anyone in his circle secretly have feelings for him?
      • If so, how long have they had them?
  • Romantic Partners
    • Is he in a relationship?
      • If so, with who?
    • What is their anniversary?
    • How long have they been together?
    • How did they meet?
    • Do they live together?
    • Do they have sex?
    • How serious is he about the relationship?
    • How serious is she about the relationship?
    • Are they dating, engaged, or married?
    • How does he feel about her?
    • How does she feel about him?
    • Do they ever argue?
      • If so, why?
    • Do they go on dates?
    • What constitutes a romantic gesture on his part?
    • What constitutes a romantic gesture on her part?
    • Do their feelings for each other ever fluctuate?
      • If so, why?
    • Do they share a bank account?
    • Does either of them feel comfortable going to the bathroom with the door open?
    • Do they consult each other about decisions?
    • What types of decisions do they discuss together?
    • What types of decisions do they make on their own?
    • Do they have any conflicting viewpoints?
      • If so, what about?
    • How do they affect their relationship?
    • Do they have any similar interests?
    • What do they enjoy doing together?
    • What do they enjoy doing separately?
    • Do they have the same friends, or are their friends in separate circles?
    • How do their respective friends feel about them?
    • How do they feel about each other?
    • How do their families feel about their relationship?
    • Have their families had an influence, direct or indirect, on their relationship?
      • If so, how?
    • Has either of them ever cheated?
      • If so, why?
    • Is either of them cheating right now?
    • Does either of them plan to end the relationship or seek a divorce?
      • If so, why?
    • If he’s not in a relationship, is there anyone he’s interested in?
      • If so, who?
    • How long has he been interested in her?
    • Have his feelings changed over time?
      • If so, why?
    • What attracts him to her the most?
    • What else does he like about her?
    • What, if anything, does he not like about her?
    • Why does he not like those things?
    • How strong are his feelings for her?
    • Does he ever try to act on them?
    • Do his efforts succeed?
    • Is she aware of his feelings?
    • Does she reciprocate them?
    • Is there anything that keeps them from being together?
    • Are either of them actively trying to overcome it?
    • Has either of them given up on the idea of a relationship?
      • If so, why?
  • School

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