I hate character questionnaires. They’re like taking a test you can never pass because half of the answers are superfluous. Do you really need to know the last two books your character read? Or their smartphone password? Or how ticklish they are? (Those are actual questions I’ve seen.)
Yes, a writer should know their characters inside and out. It helps you get inside their heads, which is important because you’ll spend a lot of time in there. But you don’t need to know everything about them before you write.
If you know these obscure details, more power to you. Me? I care more about my characters’ backstories than what they’d wear for Halloween. (Although I have drawn Aisha and Nex in Halloween costumes before.)
But what if you don’t know your characters’ backstories yet? Well, you know their personalities, right? What if there was a site where you could use their traits to reverse engineer their backstories?
The Character Builder
Presenting the Character Builder from One Stop For Writers, created by best-selling authors Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. It integrates with their Positive Trait and Negative Trait thesauruses to help you find cause-and-effect relationships between your characters’ traits and events in their pasts. That’s what backstories are for: explaining why your characters are how they are and do what they do.
Let’s say your character is affectionate. Both Aisha and Nex are. 🙂 The entry in the Positive Trait Thesaurus suggests ways your character became affectionate:
- Growing up in a loving home
- Overcompensating for a lack of love in the past
- Having affectionate role models
- Neediness; a fear of being alone or abandoned (sounds like Aisha)
- Having a romantic nature
- Being highly empathetic
- Having a desire to nurture
Notice a couple of these causes are negative. Unpleasant situations can have positive effects on a person — and vice versa. Life’s funny like that.
Of course, your character could have been born affectionate. That’s an option, too, but it shouldn’t the reason for all of their traits. Nature and nurture both make us who we are, so don’t ignore one or the other.
Since Nex doesn’t have a backstory in Winx Club, I’ve been using the Character Builder to develop him more. With negative traits, it suggests emotional wounds that may have caused them. I found a wound that matches almost all of his flaws, so it’ll be the foundation for his character growth in at least one of my stories.
Unfortunately, One Stop For Writers isn’t free. It costs a minimum of $9/mo. If that’s too expensive for you, or you’d like a free alternative, Ackerman and Puglisi also run a site called Writers Helping Writers. You’ll find information from OSFW on their blog, including thesaurus entries.
My Backstory Builder
The One Stop For Writers Character Builder gives you a framework for your characters’ backstories, but you have to fill in the specifics. That’s where my Backstory Builder comes in. I made it with the trait thesauruses in mind. It helps you translate the information from OSFW into moments from your characters’ pasts.
Try it and tell me what you think!
So, About That Aisha/Nex Fanfiction…
Yeah, I know. I’ve spent a lot of time talking about writing instead of…writing. To be honest, I’m not sure what to write about because I’m not ready to start any of my stories yet.
I’ll figure it out soon. Thanks for your patience.