i’m about to do something incredibly self-gratifying, but i’m gonna do it anyway. i thought it would be a fun writing experiment to use one of those “character sheet” templates to interview one of my characters, just to see a) if i know my character as well as i think i do and b) if she seems like a real person.
i used this sheet for reference but holy cow are there a lot of questions on it. i think i picked like two or three from each category because if i tried to answer them all it would’ve taken all day. but even if you answered half of them, i think you’d have a pretty good picture of what kind of person your character is.
i’m ambivalent about the technique of creating a ref sheet for your original characters because think about it: have you, a real person, ever had to write down everything about yourself at once? i also don’t think it’s necessary to know everything about your own characters in order to make them realistic. you don’t know everything about your closest friends, right? or even (arguably) yourself. so why a fictional character?
but nonetheless, i’m gonna try it. so, prepare to meet a fake person from my science-fiction work-in-progress and learn things about her that i probably didn’t even know. consider this an experiment.
my next guest needs no introduction… because she’s not real
What’s your name? Sylvia Foxx, but I go by Sly. Yeah, I know. I get that it’s a pun. I get that a lot.
How old are you? Seventeen.
What’s your ethnic background? About as white as it gets. Scottish-Irish-Pennsylvania Dutch on my dad’s side, and Canadian-French on my mom’s side.
Where were you born? In Philadelphia, I think?
Where do you currently live? Philadelphia. I recently moved back there.
What’s your current occupation? I’m kind of in between jobs at the moment.
What was your previous occupation? Um, that’s classified. But I kinda quit, so…
Why did you quit? The job I had before was more of a lifetime commitment sort of deal and I realized I needed to get out of it. So I did.
What’s your education level? I really don’t know. High school, I guess? I’ve had a very unconventional education.
What’s your current relationship status? Is “it’s complicated” an answer?
Yes, but would you care to elaborate? There’s a guy, and we like each other, I guess, but he’s got some weird hang-ups and I just found my family, so I guess the timing just isn’t right. Is that enough?
Tell me more about this guy. Who is he? How’d you meet? Um, his name is Core… that’s not his real name, it’s just the one he goes by, but… we more or less grew up together and worked for the same, um, organization. The one I quit. He still works there, which makes things awkward.
Describe your physical appearance. Oh, jeez. I’m about 5’6″, I have dull, brown hair that I dyed auburn, greenish eyes, pale skin, and an athletic physique. I’m not, like, super thin but I’m fit. I think you’d call it an hourglass figure? I think I’m pretty average-looking by most standards. I have kind of a round face and deep-set eyes and I’ve been told I have resting bitch face. Which I do.
How’s your general health? I’m healthy as a horse. Except for a bullet wound that’s still healing… long story.
Do tell. Occupational hazard. It was actually a split-second decision. I took a bullet for someone. That’s all I’m gonna say.
How would you describe your personal style? Functional and athletic. I don’t really care that much about fashion and I don’t even know how to dress. I like dark colors and neutrals, stretchy fabrics, and jumpsuits. Dressing up to me is wearing jeans and a non-t-shirt. I’m just, like, not that girly.
What’s your grooming routine like? Jeez, I don’t know, normal? Like I shower everyday? What do you want from me?
How do you style your hair, do you wear makeup, are you a clean freak/average/sloppy? Air dry, usually down, no, I don’t know how, and I think I’m average.
What’s your daily routine like? Um, it’s recently changed, but… I wake up pretty early most days, exercise, eat breakfast, and it used to be that I’d work my post for, like, six hours and then go do training until dinnertime and then go to bed, but now I do a whole lot of nothing. Actually, I’ve been doing a lot of computer work for my aunt’s boyfriend’s company, I guess. So basically a whole lot of nothing. Oh, and then I’m usually forced to socialize at dinner.
Do you have any hobbies? Is martial arts a hobby? Or sleeping? Because I really enjoy both of those.
What was your childhood like? Oh. Um, it was okay. Well, okay, fine. My parents died when I was like three. I was adopted by an organization that shall remain nameless and was raised basically in a village. It was actually really nice.
What’s your most significant memory? I guess it was the accident. Car accident, I think. I don’t remember being brought to the organization, though. I do remember meeting Core a few years later, but I don’t remember the specifics of that. I just think I have a terrible long-term memory.
Who are the members of your family? What is your relationship with them? Living relatives? Well, I thought I didn’t have any, but then I found out my sister was alive, and that I had an aunt, and a living grandfather, so… my sister and I actually get along really well, which was not the case at first, and my aunt is cool, and my grandfather… ehm, we don’t talk to him anymore.
Who are your closest friends? My closest friend is actually this kid named Buzz, which is surprising because he’s actually like five years older than me and he’s a super nerd. I don’t really know why we get along so well, I guess we’re both sassy. Core and I used to be best friends but then hormones made it awkward. I think we could still be friends but right now I don’t talk to him so I don’t know. Aside from that, I’d consider my sister and I friends. Don’t tell her I said that, though. She’ll get all annoying about it.
Who are your enemies? Oh, jeez. My grandfather’s definitely not my favorite person, and the organization as a whole is also on my shit list, so I guess I have a lot of enemies.
How would you say people generally perceive you? Intimidating, unfriendly, and/or weird. Okay, maybe not my friends, but definitely first impressions. Buzz would probably say I’m strong-willed and dedicated and caring and all that crap, and yeah, that’s true, but I’m like… not sure how he puts up with me sometimes.
How do you perceive yourself? I don’t know, I think… I’m just trying to be a better person. I just feel like nothing I do is good enough, but I also know that I’m really dedicated to whatever I’m doing, so that’s gotta count for something, right?
What is your greatest strength? Probably my perseverance.
What is your greatest flaw? Probably my neuroticism.
What are your values/personal beliefs? Oh, man, this is a bad time to ask that question because I’m kinda in the process of figuring that out right now. I thought I believed in my organization and in doing the greatest good for the most people–real Platonic bullshit–but that’s not even what they were doing, so. I guess I believe in choice, and I still believe in a greater good, but I don’t know what it is right now.
What is your greatest goal in life? I guess it’s to feel like I’m actually useful, and that I’m actually contributing to something.
What is your greatest regret? Probably… letting Core’s and my friendship drift away. It was really petty shit and now I think it’s a major hangup for both of us. Probably part of the reason we’re not together besides the fact that we’re just on different paths right now.
Anything else you’d like to say about yourself? If I’m rude it’s nothing personal, I’m just perpetually in a bad mood?
okay, that was an interesting experiment. she’s not my quirkiest character but she’s definitely one of my more developed ones. some of these questions are actually things i hadn’t thought about, so it was probably beneficial. i’m not sure how interesting or helpful it’s going to be for anyone else, but i hope it’s at least a little entertaining.
if you try it with one of your characters, let me know if you found it helpful for your story! and if you have any other techniques for developing characters, share it in the comments below!