30 Questions to Ask Your Main Character

Key to a breakout book.

How well do you know your main character?

So often I see writing that feels like it only lives on the page. Writers only imagine their main character in the situation they’ve put them in, not what their main character would be like if they were real. To get beyond the obvious, try to imagine your main character as someone that lives in a multi-dimensional, multi-situational way. Readers connect most with characters that they feel live on after the book is over.

Do you know the answer to these 30 questions?

  1. What do they look like?
  2. What do they like to wear?
  3. How do they like to socialize?
  4. What was their role in their family growing up?
  5. What were they most proud of as a kid?
  6. What did they find terribly embarrassing as a kid?
  7. What was their first best friend like?
  8. What ‘group’ were they in during their high school years?
  9. What did they want to be when they grew up–and what did they end up becoming?
  10. What are their hobbies?
  11. What music do they listen to?
  12. What annoys them?
  13. What makes them laugh?
  14. Are they a dog or a cat person?
  15. What season do they enjoy most?
  16. What makes them embarrassed as an adult?
  17. Do they drink alcohol?
  18. What do they feel most passionately about?
  19. What trait do they find most admirable in others?
  20. Do they want a job that helps people or a job that makes money?
  21. Are they a leader or a follower?
  22. What scares them?
  23. What are their long term goals?
  24. What are their short term goals?
  25. What are their bad habits?
  26. If they could have lived in another decade which would it have been?
  27. What do they do when they’re bored?
  28. What do they think happens after we die?
  29. If they were to come into money what would they do with it?
  30. Who was the love of their life?

Q: What questions would you add to the list?

Published by Carly Watters

Carly Watters is a SVP, senior literary agent and director of literary branding with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career. Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial and upmarket fiction, select literary fiction, platform-driven non fiction and select memoir. She occasionally represents children's book projects. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

53 thoughts on “30 Questions to Ask Your Main Character

  1. Just shared a link to this post on my FB page. Sometimes characterization is harder than coming up with a plot, and questions like these really help us focus on how we create a character who is compelling. :)


  2. Good questions to ask. Also tough to answer.

    I find that to dialogue with the character is very helpful in answering these questions. It helps me get out of my logical mind set and into my character’s mind.
    It’s not my answers to these questions but my characters’ answers that matter.
    So, I ask the questions and then listen. Sometimes, going for a walk with a character helps to get the answer.

    Thanks for these questions. I think I’ll be taking lots of walks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Whoops. Fixed.

      My philosophy about making mistakes in blog posts is that I’m trying to get out one good article a week while keeping busy for my clients. So I let the mistakes roll off my back. Luckily, I’m not trying to get published, just to help writers with one post a week.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a great list! I could answer most of them about my main character and the questions I couldn’t answer give me great places where I can round her out some more. I am happy to know that I know her as well as I do. Thanks, Carly!


  4. Many of these questions also need to be answered by our secondary characters. Thank you for this information. I will be reworking my current manuscript and expect it to be better for it.


  5. Reblogged this on Amber Jager and commented:
    There definitely is a huge benefit to having a solid connection with your main character. They need to find a place, settle, and fill out to a sense of humanity. If you don’t know these answers, you don’t necessarily know that person that you are trying to create.


  6. Thank you, Carly, for a great article with a helpful exercise. I completely agree about the importance of developing your secondary characters. I always found it helpful to write a chapter or at least several paragraphs from a supporting character’s point of view.
    I shared it on twitter and Google+


  7. Great list!! I would also add to the following questions to the list: do you prefer social gatherings or being alone? And, are you a pessimist or optimist?


  8. Great list, thanks so much! I am writing my first novel and I have spent the past week filling out character charts to get to know my characters better. I will add these to my list! :-)


  9. Especially helpful since I’m working on my first ever SERIOUS novel, I’m really getting down trying to get everything important before I start writing so I don’t lose where I am like I did in the past. This was very helpful!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for this list. I know I am late to the game for the posting, but it is all new info to me as this is my first attempt at a novel. I am very excited to dive into the background of my characters as they all have stories of their own.


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