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21 Questions


By Rosie J. SargentPublished 11 months ago 4 min read
Leeloo Thefirst: Pexels

Hello lovelies, I hope we are all well and doing our best as always. I wanted to write this article to 1) help other writers and 2) have a reminder to myself when I create new characters and maybe need a quick refresher. When I think about developing characters for the first time for a short story I am immediately sent back to my acting class. I can see the theortical characterisation worksheet in front of me. A tingey yellow with a bold bullet point font asking 21 questions.

I often use a lot of techniques I learned in these acting classes in my own writing. You'll be surprised at how many actors actually are brilliant writers, and some of them don't even know it. It's not always long lines, costumes and cues, but research and development. Could you imagine a story where there are no characters? No-one whatsoever. No Gandalf, no Hermione Granger, no Mr Darcy, or Sherlock Homles, no Daenerys Targaryen. Characters are everything and without them our work is nothing.


We need our characters to be real and relatable. We want our readers to emotionally connect with our characters and care about these fictional people that you have total control over. That's how you get your readers wanting more, because they care.

This also adds to the conversation about the need for representation and diversity in our work. Black Panther's Shuri is a great example and has inspired many little girls to consider a path in science. So where do we start? Let's get down to business... (we can defeat the Huns later).

Also Queen

Start with simple questions like name or date of birth. I like to think of it as if I am in A&E and I've been given a medical form I need to fill out. You know all the personal basics. I don't know why but doing it this way seems to help me. I think it's the idea of a hospital scenario that allows me to solidify my characters. Think of this as giving birth to your character without all the screaming and pain (that stuff comes later when we are writing). Most of us begin our lives in a hospital, so why not our characters too?

Once you've covered the basics you naturally start to consider other things. So sticking with the medical form, does your character have allergies? Are they on medication at all? What's the family medical history? These questions will make you consider appearances, facial features, tattoos, scars stuff like that. I mean how many times did Harry Potter have to hear that he looks like his dad with his mother's eyes?

Not a Queen but probably could be.

Anyway moving on... appearances are one thing but we need humanise our characters. Let's say your character has handed back the form and is waiting in the A&E waiting room. The waiting times are long and the seats are nearly full. Sooner or later a conversation between patients opens up. By creating this scenairo you are forced to consider hobbies and interests for your character. Family members, friends, educational background, work occupation, and so in and so forth. Before your character has even seen the fictional nurse, you have nearly asked your 21 questions.

Okay, so your character's name has been called and is finally seeing the fictional nurse. Now you have to consider why they may need to see a nurse in the first place. Did they cut their hand? If so, how did they do that? You can see how quickly character development and narrative begin to establish themselves. It's like your brain does all the thinking for you ey?

I like this analogy because hospitals are indiscriminate places. In real life, you do get all types of characters good bad and mediocre. The problem with 21 questions is that it is never actually 21 questions because you get into this never-ending question loop of asking more and more questions. Or you end up giving your character a certain trait that requires more research and hence more questions.

So yea, lots and lots of questions. When you start to feel like you're losing your marbles a little bit have a cuppa and take a well-earned break.

Kudos to you actors out there, bravo!


Don't forget to leave some love and subscribe and as always;

Stay safe, stay hopeful and stay blessed!


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About the Creator

Rosie J. Sargent

Hello, my lovelies! Welcome, I write everything from the very strange to the wonderful; daring and most certainly different. I am an avid coffee drinker and truth advocate.

Follow me on Twitter/X @rosiejsargent97

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Comments (5)

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  • Sandra Tena Cole10 months ago

    Great advice! I use a similar method, but it's like I'm a journalist and am interviewing them ❣️

  • Babs Iverson11 months ago

    Wonderful and helpful advice!!! Love this!!!

  • Thank you Rosie for sharing this with us. It was very helpful and informative. I do something similar in developing my characters and that I ask many questions and do a good amount of research in order to shape their personalities and other traits. If you get a chance please read my Blackbird Fly series, currently it is for parts, I feel I did an exceptional job in character development with this series.

  • Heather Hubler11 months ago

    I enjoyed the read and the advice/reminders, Rosie! I love developing characters and I appreciate this new way of looking at the process. You have a knack for writing succinct but engaging articles :)

  • L.C. Schäfer11 months ago

    This is great advice. Important to note as well, many of these facts won't make it into the story. But they are important anyway. They flesh the character out in our own minds, so it's like we are writing about a real person.

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