Tuesday, November 24, 2020

An Exercise in Layering & Depth: 25 Questions to Ask Your Characters

By Bonnie Randall

Part of The How They Do It Series 

JH: I don't think I know a single writer who isn't interested in better ways to develop characters (grin). Bonnie Randall shares 25 questions to help you figure out just who that character is. 

Some of the most telling moments of character definition—for both real people, and the fictional ones we craft—is when they are
  • made vulnerable
  • forced to choose
  • made to reveal their morals or their values

The following battery of questions, when asked of your MC (or secondary) offer an opportunity into insight as to who they really are…and also illuminates who they envision becoming. 

Unlocking these arenas of vulnerability can also deepen the narrative drive of your story—and uncover themes you may not have even known were woven within your characters’ goals, motivations, and implicit/explicit conflicts. 

As such, concentrate on one of your characters at a time and ASK:

1. If you met your ten-year-old self, what would you say? What would you do?

2. You just found $100 bucks. What do you buy? Why?

3. Is it ever okay to keep a secret? Why?

4. Is it ever okay to lie? Why?

5. Define ‘cheating’.

6. What makes you feel loved?

7. What’s your favorite memory?

8. Who did you love best in your family of origin? Why?

9. Tell me a compliment you received that truly made you proud. Who said it and when?

10. If you had three wishes, what would they be?

11. If you could change one thing about your past, what would it be?

12. What are 5 things you do well?

13. What are 5 things you suck at?

14. What scares you?

15. What are you afraid to do?

16. When’s the last time you cried? What made you sad?

17. When’s the last time you laughed? What was so funny?

18. What are you most thankful for?

19. When is the last time you were scared? What happened?

20. What are you most proud of?

21. What are you most ashamed of?

22. When was the last time you were embarrassed? What happened?

23. What’s your biggest regret?

24. Who do you admire more than anyone else? Why?

25. Who do you despise? Why?

After you have received the answers to these questions, ask the same series to your other characters, paying close attention to where your hero and villain are at odds…and where they may be the same (HINT: The places where they are very different and the places where they are the same will be where their conflict will be!). 

Pay equal attention to where your love interests’ cross-pollinate with the same sort of answers, and where they’re divergent (HINT: those disparate places AND the cross-over places will be where their chemistry will be!) 

Beyond that, have fun with it, and marvel at all the diamonds you uncover by doing this deep, eclectic dive into the heart of all your imaginary friends!


Bonnie Randall is a Canadian writer who lives between her two favorite places—the Jasper Rocky Mountains and the City of Champions: Edmonton, Alberta. A clinical counselor who scribbles fiction in notebooks whenever her day job allows, Bonnie is fascinated by the relationships people develop—or covet—with both the known and unknown, the romantic and the arcane.

Her novel Divinity & The Python, a paranormal romantic thriller, was inspired by a cold day in Edmonton when the exhaust rising in the downtown core appeared to be the buildings, releasing their souls. The series continues with her newest release, Within the Summit's Shadow.

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Andrew Gavin knows he's a train wreck. Before he even became a detective, Andrew’s first trauma—at only seventeen—occurred when he witnessed a gruesome suicide. Ever since, a delusion he calls The Dead Boy appears when his anxiety spirals too close to the edge…


Goaded by The Dead Boy, Andrew shoots and kills an unarmed teenage bully in what appears to be a fit of rage. Suspended from the force, and awaiting a possible murder charge, he retreats home to the Rockies. There The Dead Boy taunts him daily. Except…


Elizabeth McBrien, the childhood sweetheart he scorned, is back home in the mountains too, and shocks Andrew by revealing that she too sees The Dead Boy. Astonished that the spirit is not a delusion, but real, Andrew is further unnerved when he learns that The Dead Boy has ‘befriended’ Kyle, a gravely ill kid Elizabeth adores.

Now it's specter vs. cop in a race to save Kyle's life, and The Dead Boy insists that Kyle’s survival hinges on secrets Andrew holds about that long-ago suicide. Yet Andrew knows the entire truth will destroy him, and also annihilate any new chance he may have with Elizabeth. But they are running out of time; Kyle is dying, and The Dead Boy is ready to sacrifice anything in order to once again walk among the living…

Within the Summit’s Shadow is a paranormal romance unlike any you’ve ever read. Set in the resort town of Jasper amid the splendor of the Canadian Rockies, this novel combines love, mystery, and a persistent, deeply psychological, very personal haunting. Randall really delivers the goods with this one.”


  1. To get used to these questions, it's interesting asking myself the same questions.

  2. These questions have made me cry! They are something profound. I'm answering them now and I don't think I'm gonna be the same person afterwards. Cheers from Brazil.

  3. These are excellent questions to ask your characters!! Thank you for sharing, Bonnie!