Readers fall in love with characters. That’s a fact.
They might come for the clever plots, exciting action sequences, steamy love stories, and whimsical worlds… but they stick around for the characters.
It doesn’t matter if you can write the most beautiful prose the world has ever read. It doesn’t matter if you have a premise so gripping that it’ll make the hearts of the busiest, pickiest agents race in excitement. It doesn’t matter if you follow every rule and build the most perfect three-act structure in literature. None of that matters to your readers if they don’t fall in love with your characters.
How, exactly, do you make readers fall in love with your characters?
Good question. Glad you asked, because (in case you missed the title) I have 101 suggestions below.
Think about your favorite characters. Did you carve out a little corner of your heart for them to curl up in because they had a perfect button nose, or could wave a wand, or because they’re good and pure and kind and nice to everyone?
Cute noses are, well, cute. But they don’t tell us anything about anything. Magical abilities? Big whoop. Throw a pen in a bookshop and you’ll probably hit a spine hiding a magic wielder. Perfect characters who are all good, all the time? Well they just sound annoying.
Readers want believable, relatable, interesting, appealing characters.
That means characters with depth. Characters with strengths and weaknesses. Characters whose resilience is balanced with vulnerability, and whose motivations make sense.
In order for you to write characters that leap off the page, they need to first become real in your mind. You need to get to know them – not just as characters in your plot, but as real people with real lives and loves, fears and doubts, dreams and goals.
That’s why I’ve written 101 conversation starters!
You don’t have to ask them all. The answers might never come up in your book. But they’re a good starting point to get you thinking about what really matters to your characters, why they are they way they are, and why they want the things they want.
Family and Childhood
1. Where did you grow up?
2. How would you describe your family?
3. Did you have a happy childhood?
4. Would you call your upbringing ‘conventional’?
5. Are your parents alive? What kind of relationship do you have with them?
6. If you have siblings, are you close? If you’re an only child, how do you think that has affected you?
7. If you don’t already, would you like children of your own some day?
8. Of all your memories, which stands out most clearly?
9. As a child, what were you most likely to be found doing?
10. When you were young, what did you dream your future would look like?
11. What kind of education did you receive?
12. What did you want to be when you grew up?
13. Are you more of an idealist or a cynic? An optimist or a pessimist?
14. Do you ever find yourself daydreaming or lost in thought?
15. How do you deal with pressure and deadlines?
16. Do you ever do something… just to see how it will turn out?
17. Do you enjoy making plans, or do you prefer spontaneity?
18. Which do you value more: creativity or practicality?
19. How would you describe your energy levels? Are you more of a hummingbird or a sloth?
20. Be honest… are you easily influenced by others?
21. Would you ever tell a lie to get yourself out of trouble?
22. Are there any circumstances in which you’d let somebody else be blamed for your actions?
23. Are you able to control your emotions? Or do your emotions control you..?
24. You have to make a big decision. Do you listen to your head or your heart?
25. Can you keep a secret..?
26. What’s your predominant emotion?
27. When you’re sad, what cheers you up?
28. If you were to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?
29. Would you describe yourself as an introvert or an extrovert? (ie what energizes you? Being by yourself or with other people?)
30. Is trust something that comes easily to you?
31. Do you ever feel superior to others?
32. Would you rather have a hundred casual friends or just one truly devoted friend?
33. What kind of people do you value more: those who are loyal to you or those who are useful to you?
34. Do you find it easy to make friends?
35. How do you choose who you spend your time with?
36. Are you comfortable being the centre of attention?
37. When it comes to your thoughts and feelings, are you an open book or a locked vault?
38. Who is the most important person in your life?
39. If you were in desperate need, who would you turn to?
40. If you disappeared, who would miss you?
41. Have you ever lost anyone important to you?
42. Imagine you’re filling in an online dating profile, what would you say you’re looking for?
43. Who was your first kiss?
44. Have you ever been in love?
45. Have you ever felt truly loved by someone else?
46. How would you describe your sexual orientation?
47. Do you believe there’s a ‘soul mate’ out there for you?
48. Are you looking for true love or a quick fling?
49. What’s your idea of romance?
50. How do you show someone you care about them?
51. Is there anyone you would willing give your life for?
Purpose and Motivation
52. When you want something, do you dream about it or do you take action?
53. If you were diagnosed with a terminal illness, what would be the first thing you’d do?
54. When someone wrongs you, do you respond with revenge or forgiveness?
55. Would you say you have any enemies?
56. What are you most afraid of?
57. Would would make you happiest: wealth, power, peace, or love?
58. Would you rather lead or follow?
59. Which do you find more appealing: to be loved, to be admired, or to be feared?
60. How much do you care what people think about you?
61. What, if anything, makes you feel insecure?
62. Would you rather win an argument or avoid conflict?
63. Do you ever find yourself feeling jealous? Of whom, and of what?
64. Do you have any special abilities? How do you use them?
65. What would you like have written on your tombstone?
Influences and Experiences
66. Who would you identify as your role model?
67. What is the best thing that has ever happened to you?
68. What’s the worst thing that has ever happened to you..?
69. What achievement are you most proud of?
70. Have you ever been bullied or abused?
71. Have you ever bullied or abused anyone else?
72. If you could go back in time and undo one of your own actions, which would it be?
73. What is the one thing you would hate anyone to know about you?
74. Do you think of yourself as a victim?
75. Do you have much experience of cultures outside your own?
76. What is your social status? How do you think has that shaped you?
Likes and Dislikes
77. Would you rather go to the theatre or a sporting event?
78. How do you feel about black tie events?
79. What’s your ideal holiday destination?
80. When you’re stressed, what relaxes you?
81. What does ‘perfect happiness’ look like to you?
82. What talents do you admire most?
83. How do you feel about animals? Friends, pets, threats, or food?
84. Do you enjoy learning?
85. Do you have a favorite color? What does it make you think of?
86. What kind of music do you enjoy listening to?
87. What kind of books or movies do you like to read or watch?
88. What really makes you laugh?
89. Do you have any pet peeves?
90. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
91. How would you describe your sense of style?
92. If your home went up in flames, what three things would you choose to rescue?
93. If you went to Hogwarts, which House would you be sorted into?
94. If you were in Divergent, which faction would you belong to?
95. Who is your celebrity crush?
96. If you were on death row, what would you choose as your last meal?
97. If you could be reincarnated as any animal, what would you come back as?
98. If you could have any superpower, what would it be? (Assuming of course that you don’t already have one…)
99. When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
100. Do you believe in life after death?
101. How would you choose to die?
If just reading all these questions has exhausted you… you’ll appreciate my practical guide: How to Write When You’re Tired! Download it now
For more tips, as well as daily motivation and inspiration for your best writing life, make sure you follow me on Instagram! Remember to turn on notifications so you don’t miss anything.