When you are first going out with someone, you want to know everything about them: where they went to school, their favorite meal and even what sports team they root for. That kind of enthusiasm should be carried over into the formation of your fictional characters by creating a character fact checker.
In a much earlier post, (How Well Do You Know Your Character), I wrote about doing an analysis of your main character(s) before you begin writing your novel. This includes doing a detailed physical, emotional, mental and historical description. Because how can you paint an effective portrait of your main character (MC) if you do not know everything about them? Pin your MC(s) down or it will be like herding cats: they will be all over the place.
In addition I recently started doing a list that I call 10 Things You Didn’t Know About (insert MC’s name here) or for simplicity “character fact checker”. This information may never see the light of day in your work, but it only serves to help you get a better handle on your MC. It is a basic list and I try to use questions that I have not used in my character analysis. Here is the list I used recently for my 3 main characters. Feel free to tweak it as needed.
Character Fact Checker for Claire
- Favorite color?
- Favorite meal/dessert/beverage?
- Favorite TV program (which begs the question: do they watch TV?)/movie/music/book?
- Coffee or tea?
- Political leanings: left, right or somewhere in between. Or don’t have any political leanings?
- What type of student were they in school?
- Do they like sports? Do they play them?
- Morning person? Or not?
You can make up your own questions and even do this exercise first and then use it as a launch pad for the more detailed character analysis.
Returning to the dating analogy, you want to learn everything about the object of your affection. Again, this knowledge may never be used, but it will be there, anchoring itself in the sub-conscious of your mind and coupled with a detailed analysis it will help you create a rich, layered depth to your character.