(This is my hundredth post! Hooray!)
I borrowed a book from this awesome person in my writing group on Tuesday. What Would Your Character Do? is the title, and it's supposed to help with character development (and making their actions believable). It asks situational questions, like "What is the first thing your character does upon receiving an invitation to an extended family picnic?"
It got me thinking. I've made my own questionnaires for characters before, and filled out some that were made by others--but I started wondering if I actually know how my own friends would react... it really reinforces for me the idea that we have to know our characters better than can possibly know a real person. After all, we're in their heads.
One of my major problems with the last draft of Tsirash came in getting those characters across; to those who had never heard me really talk about my book or the people living in my head, they came across as whiny, overemotional, or irrational. Not every person said the same thing about every character, though, and it's been tough for me to pick through and decide what I really need to focus on that could fix this problem. (Whoa, there's though, tough, through in the same sentence!) I feel like I know them so well--the issue isn't so much knowing what they would do as how that makes them appear.
Which brings me back to the book. These questions for characters give basic multiple choice answers to you--but then explain what sort of person would generally choose/feel that way. For instance, if I chose "D) Feel unaccountably depressed"... I also see that it says, "Feeling unaccountably depressed alerts us to the possibility that your character sees herself as an outsider even in her own family."
Not that this book is perfect--especially for what I'm writing, since the scenarios are about modern-day dealings in our own world. But I do think there's a lot to be said about tiny glimpses making big differences. And if you want to know how to do that, you'd best start asking questions.