Comprehensive Psychological and Environmental Character Questionnaire


Comprehensive Psychological and Environmental Character Questionnaire

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About: The following is a character questionnaire I developed to be particularly useful to character development in science fiction and fantasy genre novels, and novels with strong or complex psychological interactions. This questionnaire can also be used for character development in other genres or in genre-less novels.

The questionnaire is divided into sections:

1. Childhood / Past of Character. Explains the “how” and “why” of your character. Stuff that happened before the start of the story.
2. Visual Description. Identifies and fleshes out the physical statistics of your character.
3. Mental, Psychological, and Social Description. All the internal and external stuff that drives your character.
4. Voice Description. Used sparingly, helpful in adding believable personality to dialogue.
5. General Personality Spectrums. A list of opposed personality traits. Check off where your character falls in the spectrums.
6. General Life. Describes your character’s day-to-day actions during the course of the story.

Each section has a number of “questions.” For example, the first “question” under the first section is “General Childhood / Past Home.” Next to the question is a list of examples or suggestions. Where applicable, you may wish to elaborate on your answers in the spaces provided. The given examples and suggestions aren’t comprehensive, they’re to help you understand the questions. Similarly, this questionnaire isn’t comprehensive for every genre or novel. You may want to add your own questions, or use this questionnaire in combination with others.

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Tips: All major characters get their own questionnaire. Fill out the questionnaire before or during the writing of your novel. Answer the questions a little at a time so you’re not overwhelmed by them. Let your characters answer the questions naturally, or if they don’t like to reveal themselves, answer the questions for them. Skip questions that don’t apply to your characters or story. If you get stuck on a question, move on to another character, or write a scene in your novel, then come back to the question.

When integrating the answers into your novel, remember a little goes a long way. Use or allude to information only if it moves your story forward.

Feel free to print and use this questionnaire in whatever way is helpful to you. If you’d like to reproduce this questionnaire on the internet or for public use, an attribution would be appreciated. Thank you!

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Character Name / Nickname(s):

 

1. Childhood / Past of Character:

General Childhood / Past Home (street orphan, institutional orphan, fostered, adopted, born-into, mixed)

Specific Childhood / Past Psychology (abused, neglected, over-protected, smothered, stable, mixed)

General Sibling Relationship (only child, twin, triplet, multi-sibling family)

Past Relationship with Parent(s) (nonexistent, or: abusive, indifferent, supportive, mixed, other)

Past Specific Sibling Relationship (nonexistent, or: antagonistic, indifferent, supportive, mixed, other)

Past Specific Extended Family Relationship (nonexistent, or: abusive, indifferent, supportive, mixed, other)

Past Specific Acquaintances / Friends Relationship (nonexistent, or: antagonistic, indifferent, supportive, mixed, other)

Disciplinary Upbringing (nonexistent, or: permissive, strict, authoritarian, mixed, other)

General Past Schooling (unschooled, homeschooled, high school grad, trade school grad, college, degree collector, self-taught)

Attitude Toward Past Schooling (indifferent, disliked, liked, mixed, other)

Childhood / Past Travel (nonexistent, in town, in state, in nation, world travel, planetary travel, other)

Special Past Training (CPR, wilderness survival, homesteading, self-defense, other)

Past Pets (farm pets, house pets, other)

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2. Current Visual Description:

Species (human, humanoid, non-human animal, ET, other)

Gender (female, male, intersex, transitioning, transgender, genderqueer)

Age (at start of story)

Height (diminutive, short, medium, tall, giant)

Build (bony, thin, average, full-figured, obese)

Skin (albino white, pale, tan, brown, darkest black, other)

Hair (natural or hair piece)

(bald, balding, full)

(white, salt / pepper, blonde, red, brunette, black, other)

(short, medium, long)

(thin, medium, thick)

(straight, wavy, curly, afro, dreads, braids, other)

Eyes (irises or colored contacts) (partial / complete heterochromic, pink, blue, green, hazel, brown, black, other)

Teeth (natural or artificial)

(none / few, full set)

(white, non-white, discolored, embellished)

(straight, crooked)

Body Modifications (none, or: birthmarks, scars, tattoos, piercings, implants, other)

Personal Clothing Style (indifferent, sloppy, neat, shabby, tailored, thrift store, designer, institutional, mixed, other)

Usual Clothes (no usual, or: minimalist, casual, sporty, business, uniform, mixed, other)

Makeup (none, some, a lot)

Jewelry (none, some, a lot)

Personal Hygiene (nonexistent, minimal, average, obsessive)

Gestures and Body Language (minimal, robotic, stiff, cowering, fluid, dramatic, aggressive, unpredictable, mixed, other)

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3. Mental, Psychological, and Social Description:

General Intelligence (profoundly retarded, below average, average, above average, genius)

Specific Intelligence (street smart, book smart, mechanically intelligent, socially intelligent, philosophically intelligent, mixed, other)

Imagination (none, or: little imagination, moderate imagination, much imagination, avid daydreamer, lives in fantasy world, mixed)

Learning Abilities (none, or: speed reader, photographic memory, Asperger’s Syndrome, savant, other)

Learning Disabilities (none, or: ADD, HD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, autism, other)

Physical Abilities (none, or: athlete, ambidextrous, contortionist, perfect pitch, other)

Physical Disabilities (none, or: wheelchair, blind, deaf, missing limb, infirm, other)

Psychological Abilities (none, or: charismatic, manipulative, mentalist, hypnotic, other)

Psychological Disabilities (none, or: depression, PTSD, neurosis, psychosis, phobias, other)

Conditions and Diseases (none, or: sensitivities, allergies, diabetes, cancer, food addiction, alcohol / drug addiction, sex addiction, other)

Fragrance (none, or: offensive, neutral, pleasant? perfume / cologne?)

General Cult Influence / Non-Influence (atheist, agnostic, deist, theist, other)

Specific Cult Influence (none, or: Wiccan, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jew, Christian Protestant, Catholic, other)

Other Superstitions (Lucky shirt? Avoids / seeks ‘13’? Knocks on wood? Chants?)

General Political Influence (apolitical, moderately political, extremely political, other)

Specific Political Influence (conservative, moderate, liberal, other)

Economic Status (poverty-stricken, poor, sustained, middle class, upper middle class, wealthy)

General Vocation (non-employed, unemployed, under-employed, part-time, full-time)

Specific Vocation (homemaker, farmer, office worker, artist, teacher, entrepreneur, gov worker, other)

Vocational Attitude

(indifferent, vocation is stepping-stone, hates vocation, loves vocation)

(character is money-focused, character is service-focused, character is self-focused)

Peer Relationships (hermit, limited contact with others, moderate contact with others, lots of contact with others)

Preferred Method of Communication (none, or: online, phone, face to face, mixed, other)

Self-Abuse (character inflicts on self) (none, or: alcoholism, drug abuse, eating disorder, other)

Other Abuse (character inflicts on others) (none, or: domestic abuser, bully, rapist, stalker, other)

Survivor Status (none, or: domestic abuse survivor, rape survivor, torture survivor, other)

Partnership (single, dating, committed, engaged, married, other)

Sexuality (asexual / platonic, homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual, queer, pansexual, unsure, other)

Quirks / Habits (Taps foot? Snaps gum? Cracks knuckles? Mutes TV commercials? Flirtatious?)

Pet Peeves (Litter? Long lines? Whining children? Slurping?)

Sense of Humor (none, or: child-like, bathroom, slapstick, farcical / satirical, sick / morbid, self-depreciating, dry / deadpan, flirtatious, x-rated, off-beat / quirky, sardonic / sarcastic, witty / high-brow, abstract, surreal / nonsensical, mixed, other)

Temper Control (no reaction, slow to anger, balanced, short-fused, quickly becomes violent)

Sleep Dream Recall / Influence

(none, scant, moderate, much)

(black & white, color, mixed)

(lucid, mixed, other)

Major Influencing Personal Events (moving, marriage, raising a family, death of family members / friends, abuse, other)

Major Influencing Social, Political, and Cultural Events (social circle influence, celebrity influence, dominant politics, war, other)

Prejudices (Speciest? Racist? Religiously intolerant? Misogynistic? Homophobic? Xenophobic? Other?)

Internal Image (character views self as . . ) (indifferent, nice, mean, powerful, cog-in-wheel, smart, ditsy, capable, limited, other)

External Image (others view character as . . ) (indifferent, nice, mean, powerful, cog-in-wheel, smart, ditsy, capable, limited, other)

Shameful History / Traits (not pre-disposed to shame, or: criminal record, physical / mental weakness, economic status, obscurity, other)

Prideful History / Traits (not pre-disposed to pride, or: career, physical / mental strength, economic status, fame, other)

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4. Voice Description:

Speaking Voice

(weak, average, strong)

(high pitch, medium pitch, low pitch)

Speech Patterns

(Monotone? Quaver? Stutter?)

(Accent? Sparse? Florid? Disorganized? Profane?)

(simple vocab, academic vocab)

Favorite Repeated Words / Phrases (for example, “Ah . . ,” “That’s reasonable,”  “Holy crapoly!”)

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5. General Personality Spectrums:

Kind . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Cruel

Polite . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Rude

Joiner . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Loner

Steady . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Flighty

Loving . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Hateful

Open . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Secretive

Brave . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Cowardly

Genuine . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Phony

Emotional . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Stoic

Proud . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Ashamed

Grateful . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Spiteful

Creative . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Dronish

Honest . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Dishonest

Helpful . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Unhelpful

Humorous . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Serious

Addictive . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Abstinent

Friendly . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Unfriendly

Aggressive . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Passive

Interested . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Apathetic

Trusting . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Suspicious

Ambitious . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Fatalistic

Cheerful . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Melancholic

Optimistic . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Pessimistic

Confident  . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Unconfident

Constructive . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Destructive

Adaptable . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Un-adaptable

Open-minded . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Closed-Minded

Non-confrontational . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . I . Confrontational

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6. General Life

General Home Location (homeless, wilderness, homestead, farm, suburb, town, city, metropolis, other)

Specific Home Location (Europe, Asia, North America, South America, non-Earth location, other)

Abode Type (none, or: flop house, lives with friends / extended family, tree / cave / cliff, tent, hut, cabin, rents room / apartment, rents house, homeowner, mansion owner, estate owner, other)

Personal Abode Style (furniture, decorations) (indifferent, minimalist, sloppy, neat, shabby, themed, thrift store, designer, mixed, other)

Travel (nonexistent, in town, in state, in nation, world traveler, planetary traveler, other)

General Language Ability (mute / illiterate, monolingual, bilingual, multilingual)

Specific Language Ability (empathic, computer language, alien language, sign language, pidgin, Esperanto, English, Spanish, Italian, French, Chinese, Japanese . . other)

Handwriting

(none, or: illegible, moderately neat, exacting)

(small, medium, large)

(manuscript, cursive, mixed, other)

Diet

(vegan, vegetarian, meat-and-potatoes, carnivore)

(freegan, gardener / farmer, religious diet, diabetic, food allergies, other)

Favorite Food (Tomatoes? Hot and spicy? Gingerbread? Thai? Truffles?)

Entertainment (gambler, sports observer / participator, word games, reading, TV / movies, crafter / hobbyist, traveler, partier, other)

Favorite Music (Muzak? Sprechgesang? Techno? Steely Dan? Cello? Hawaiian? Theremin?)

Favorite Physical Possession(s) (none, or: house, car, jewelry, artwork, other)

Holiday Observance (Secular? Religious? Birthdays?)

Drinks Alcohol (abstinent or recovered alcoholic, rarely drinks, occasionally drinks, drinks often, drinks daily, alcoholic)

General Family Relationships (is your character a . . ) (Child? Parent? Sibling? Life partner / spouse? Part of an extended family?)

Specific Family Relationships (no family, or: lives with family, close with family, moderate with family, distant with family)

Current Relationship with Parent(s) (nonexistent, or: abusive, indifferent, supportive, other)

Current Relationship with Sibling(s) (nonexistent, or: antagonistic, indifferent, supportive, other)

Specific Extended Family Relationship (nonexistent, or: antagonistic, indifferent, supportive, mixed, other)

Specific Acquaintances / Friends Relationship (nonexistent, or: antagonistic, indifferent, supportive, mixed, other)

Partners (Business partner? Partner in crime? Best friend? Spouse?)

Friends / Influential Acquaintances / Enemies in Story (Protagonist relationship? Supporting character relationship? Antagonist relationship?)

Pets (farm pets, house pets, other)

Life Goals (Specific career? Marriage? Raising a family? Fortune? Fame? Power? Other?)

Life Fears (Aloneness? Poverty? Crime? Disease? Other?)

Greatest Aspiration (Knowledge? Religious Salvation? Rescuing others? Happiness? Other?)

Greatest Trial (Abuse? Death of friend / family member? Personal injury? Target of crime? Other?)

Character Motto (logline or philosophy)

Character Arc (growth, gain, loss, or transformation)

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5 Comments

  1. Wow, this is awesome! Thanks, CM! Gotta go play with my characters now. 🙂

    Reply
  2. aishwarya95

     /  January 11, 2014

    This is the coolest character sheet I’ve ever seen! Thanks a lot.

    Reply
  1. The Juggling Writer - Sunday Randomness

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