One of the more popular things on this site has been the pdf “365 Character Questions for Writers and Roleplayers,”. Every now and then when I look through our stats I find that someone new has linked to it, usually via a blog entry or forum post, because they’re answering some of the questions for their own characters or suggesting it as a resource for others.
It’s always incredibly gratifying, of course, when I find this–it’s great to know people are finding this useful. What always amazes me, though, is that almost invariably there’s at least one person who comments on how ridiculous it is to have to answer 365 questions regarding a character.
Of COURSE it’s ridiculous–or would be. That isn’t the point of the document. Here I’ll quote directly from the introduction to the pdf:
Try to answer different questions for each character you flesh out in this manner. It helps to explore different aspects of each, although there might be some overlap (certainly some questions overlap in subject matter). If all of your characters have the exact same aspects of their history or personality defined then a sameness might emerge, even if the answers to the questions are different for each. I recommend answering at least two different questions for every character, and no more than ten at once–with the number of questions in direct relation to how important the character is to your story or game.
One other possibility is to answer just one to three questions at first. Then, at different periods during the course of your novel or game, answer another question to help you delve deeper into the character. This allows you to work any new developments that have occurred into your answers and can lend unexpected depth to your current work.
I also mention that, “Sometimes you need to look around until you find something that inspires you.”
The point of having 365 questions isn’t to answer them all. Dear lord no. It’s to have options available. As I said above, “I recommend answering at least two different questions for each character.” Two. Not 365. Having 365 gives you the chance to find questions that will inspire you. It allows you to answer different questions for different characters. I can’t imagine trying to answer 365 for one character–I think by the time you’re done you’d probably hate the character because you’d gotten sick of it, and in order to answer 365 you’d have to treat each answer very superficially. You’re much better off answering a few questions in-depth.