I’m bored; I haven’t blogged in a while; and I have a new story refusing to form into anything more than a vague concept. In the hopes of maybe getting a tiny grasp on one of the characters, I dove into my collection of character creation questionnaires. (I believe I’ve mentioned before that I collect useless writing tools? It’s a sickness.) Well, I have yet to find anything useful, but I did find some questions that were so bizarre I feel the need to share them. So I’m posting the first dumb question from several of these things:
What is/would be their favorite potato chip flavor?
What position does your character typically sleep in?
Meaning of name:
What about the character is heroic?
What does their handwriting like?
When someone walks in [to the character’s home], what’s their first impression?
What about the character is social?
What kind of discipline was your character subjected to at home?
Does your character have a birthmark?
What is your character’s citizenship status?
Body hair (amount and color):
Did the character change much after high school?
The lie the character believes about himself:
Age and why:
Describe the character’s likely vocabulary:
I have a lot more, but I’m going to stop there. I also found some that had no stupid questions, but they were equally useless for the character creation phase of writing something. I can’t say what a character’s motivation is before I even know who they are! I can only assume those are for those weird authors who start with a plot and then make characters to fit it. I actually saw somebody talking about how plots are easy and characters are hard the other day! That’s totally alien to me. Characters are bloody easy. Plots, on the other hand, are a bitch to come up with.
Anyway, to amuse myself I’m going to try to answer these 25 questions for the character I was trying to figure out stuff about. So, read on to learn more about Jareth Kavaliro.
What is/would be their favorite potato chip flavor? You know, I might be able to answer this about some of the characters I’ve “known” for ages, but a brand new one? Fucked if I know.
What position does your character typically sleep in? Why is this a question?! Is there any way this can tell you anything about who a character is? I don’t think I could answer it for any character. No. I’ve got it: Laying down.
Scent: This is a weird one. I assume the character in question smells sweaty after working and like soap after bathing. Is it maybe meaning “what cologne or perfume do they wear?” or something like that?
Name origin: I have no idea where Jaye came up with Jareth, since she didn’t recall the obvious use of the name. Kavaliro is Esperanto for knight. In-universe it’s some ancient language’s word for something like “noble and valiant warrior” . . . though some, including some bearers of the name, claim it means “village idiot” or “lacking common sense.” Why do I need to answer this to make the character?
Meaning of name: Oh, I answered this above, at least for his last name. Jareth means . . . I don’t know.
What about the character is heroic? What fucking kind of question is this?! Is this another manifestation of that fucking “all stories are the Heroes’ Journey” thing I keep encountering (and will rant about as soon as I can manage to do so without getting so irate that I lose the ability to form coherent sentences.)?
Theme song: I don’t know! A couple of characters do have songs that make me think of them, but it’s never a deliberate thing. It’s that I’m listening to a song and suddenly realize, “Hey, the guy in this sounds like Bobby.” It’s certainly not the sort of question I could answer before writing a single sentence with a character!
What does their handwriting look like? I know the answer to this for three whole characters. Two of them because it’s notably sloppy; the third because it’s textbook perfect. The rest? If it’s ever really, really relevant, I’ll figure it out then. It’s not relevant to learning more about Jareth. Besides, it’s hard to say more than “neat” or “sloppy” since they write in a made up language with made up characters! Newsflash, makers of these questionnaires: Not all characters are in modern Earth settings!
When someone walks in [to the character’s home], what’s their first impression? I don’t know! I just figured out the size of their house a couple of days ago; I’m still a long way from figuring out the decor, tidiness, etc.
Astrological sign: Seriously, this was on about every third questionnaire. Maybe they were written in the Seventies? (That is when “what’s your sign?” was actually a pick-up line, right?)
Blood type: Okay, I understand in Japan blood type is thought to be linked to personality traits . . . I have no idea if this is a mainstream belief or not, but it’s what a website said and I’ve played a video game where it was a characteristic that influenced character behavior, so I can understand this one being asked, sort of. But . . . a) wow, that’s humanocentric, and b) I don’t have a clear enough picture yet to tell you Jareth’s hair color and you’re asking me his blood type?!
What about the character is social? I’m not even sure what this one’s asking. Anybody else want to hazard a guess?
What kind of discipline was your character subjected to at home? You know, I’m pretty sure this isn’t really relevant for most adult characters.
Does your character have a birthmark? I don’t know! Why does it matter? When do birthmarks ever matter in stories unless they’re part of a prophecy?
What is your character’s citizenship status? This one is just bizarre. That’s, it seems to me, the sort of thing that there’s no reason to note unless it’s somehow important to the story, and most stories I can think of where it’d be important, it would be obvious what it was so the plot would work. Anyway, Jareth has lived on the world since he was one and a half, so I’m pretty sure he’s a citizen.
Body hair (amount and color): Is this really something people think about when creating a character? I can answer it for a couple of mine, but that’s because their species doesn’t have much body hair.
Did the character change much after high school? Look at the assumptions in that one! Not only does it assume the story is set in a timeframe where high school — which is really a pretty recent invention — exists, but it assumes your character went to it! I’m not sure the world Jareth lives on has high schools, and even if it does, he didn’t attend one.
Posture: See response to body hair.
Descriptive similes: I don’t think I’ve ever once thought “What are the descriptive similes I would use for this character?” Has anyone else?
Catchphrase: No. Please, no. Not every character has to have a catchphrase. In fact, most shouldn’t. Most people don’t have catchphrases, do they? I do have characters with catchphrases, but in they were always emergent, not planned.
Belly: I really don’t think it’s necessary to know exactly what every single bit of your character looks like before you write.
Diction: How do you even answer this one? I’m not sure I could describe my own diction, for fuck’s sake!
The lie the character believes about himself: The past few months I’ve started seeing lots of stuff with this sort of question on it. I guess there’s some newly popular writing advice book or something out that would have you believe every character has a lie they believe about themselves and this has something to do with making them a “real” character and their arc and shit like that. This is a totally foreign approach to character creation for me. Seems to me it’s creating a character as a device to tell the story you want instead of a person.
Age and why: Age is a sensible enough question, but why? I don’t get that one. Jareth is 29 because his randomly generated birthdate makes him that old in the year the story is set. Why is the story set that year? That’s for another blogpost. 🙂
Describe the character’s likely vocabulary: What the fuck? How do you describe someone’s vocabulary?
I really, really don’t get how these things are supposed to be helpful.