February 13, 2017
Secondary Character Questionnaire
Secondary characters are tricky. They're fairly important, but at the same time they can't steal the spotlight from the protagonist. They have to be rounded characters with their own goals, but they also need to help the protagonist in some way. And that's not even mentioning all the types of secondary characters there are. Mentors, love interests, antagonists, and more.
Over time, I've come up with my own set of questions to ask secondary characters. They cover most of what you'll need to know about them. I decided to share them with you, and at the end I've even included a printable PDF. (It's my first, so let me know if it works okay.)
Let's go to the questions. For simplicity, I'm going to use she/her for all the questions. Just change it to he/him if you're using it for a boy. Also, don't forget to write down what role each secondary character plays, just so you can keep track.
This is an easy question, but a hard one to answer. Thankfully, there are plenty of baby name sites out there. Just be sure not to use too many of the same letters. You don't want a Roland, Roderick, and Ralph all in one novel.
This one is optional, though it can add depth to a character. They can even have more than one nickname if you want.
What do they do for a living? Why? You can skip this question if they're still in school.
What do they look like? Hair, eyes, face, body. Are they muscular or skinny? How is their posture? Write down everything you need to form a clear picture of your character.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out this one.
Or, how do they act? Do they twirl their hair, bite their nails, or tap their foot? Are there any actions that make this character memorable?
What does she wear?
Clothes tell a lot about a character. Is she preppy, athletic, or fancy? Does she like heels or flats? Give a list of her normal clothes to get a feel for the character.
Favorite colors are also good for making a character more life-like.
What is she good at?
Horseback riding? Croquet? Art? What are her top three talents?
What is she bad at?
What things couldn't your character do to save her life? Can she not cook without burning down the kitchen? Would she never skydive?
*These next five questions are taken from K. M. Weiland's article "5 Secrets of Complex Supporting Characters". Check out the article if you need more help.*
What does she want?
Outside of helping the protagonist, what does this character want deep down? What does she desire? Love? Family? Confidence?
What is her goal?
What is she trying to get? Secondary character goals can be fun to come up with, especially if they're against the protagonist's goal.
What lie does she believe?
Every character has some Lie they believe at the beginning of the book. Does your character think she's ugly? That bad actions are protecting someone? What is holding her back?
What flaw results from the lie?
The Lie leads to a flaw in the character, something that will change as she goes. Is she not confident? Does she steal?
What truth does she learn?
Finally, your character will learn something as they go through the story. The truth they learn will be the opposite of the lie. What will your character figure out?
What is her background?
This is the best part. Come up with a history for your character. It doesn't have to be super deep, it just needs to give you an idea of their life.
And, as I promised, your PDF! Just click the link and it should take you to Google Drive or Docs. Let me know if it doesn't work.
How do you create your supporting characters? Do you have any questions to add? Let me know in the comments.