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It pays to ask the tough questions… of your characters

So, I was reading this blog post by Kristen Lamb, and I got to thinking what a good exercise it would be to ask my own characters the questions near the bottom of the post. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve spent a whole book and nearly a half with these guys, I know them pretty well. But, do you know how easy it is to just carry on thinking you know your characters without really stopping to think? I’ll tell you… really, really easy.

The questions are (paraphrased):

  • What is his/her greatest strength/weakness? (Bearing in mind, the greatest strength is often also the greatest weakness)
  • What is his/her greatest fear?
  • What problem could make him/her struggle the most?
  • What problem could force tough moral choices?
  • What problem has the highest stakes?

Now, the last three questions are more “story” questions that are derived from the first two, which are “character” questions. The last three only develop real impact once the first two are answered.

I asked the questions of Llew and Jonas. Llew didn’t surprise me much. Jonas shouldn’t have. And yet,

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