I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Wait, you wrote about this before…” And I have, right here! For other posts for questions ideas, visit my archive.
The more time I spend beta reading, the more things I have to say about what I’m seeing in a story. I wanted to talk about character again today because I’ve thought of a bunch of new questions while working on my new book. It’s character driven so my questions have gotten more in-depth. And that’s what this list is for, digging in and exploring reader reaction to the characters you’ve developed.
As always, every question on this list is followed by the question Why?
Character Growth (Major and Minor)
We’ve talked about the like-ability (because likability creeps me out, it makes me thinking of licking, I know I’m weird) and believability of characters in the past. The thing is character development has a lot of dimension and sometimes whether someone likes them isn’t enough feedback. Sometimes not even the “why” part of the question is enough. Here are some examples:
Did you think the character went through any changes or grew as person by the end of the story?
Were there any moments the character reverted back to who they were in the beginning?
Were any of the changes in the character’s growth too dramatic to believe?
Did the decisions make sense for who they are to you?
What would you say are the most defining personality traits of the character?
Do you feel they were vital to the story and did their growth enrich it?
The above questions could apply to any character, although if we’re honest we’re most concerned about the big ones. The thing is supporting roles and minor characters can have an impact or be fan favorites… but they must bring something to the story.
How would you describe the relationship between this character and the MC/villain?
Do you feel this character has made an impact on the world/character/plot or could you live without them?
Do you think that this character’s relationship with the protagonist or villain was vital to their growth?
Were there any moments the character seemed unnecessary?
Were there any moments you felt the character served it’s purpose and didn’t need to be in the story any longer?
Any moments where you wondered where a character was or what they were doing?
Villain vs. Hero
We’ve talked about this before but we’ll talk about this again. Hero and villain not only need to be believable but more times than not they need to represent some kind of wrongness to each other. Sometimes the deeper philosophical issues or emotional traumas these two inflict on each other gets lost or falls flat. The villains I like best are the ones you can relate to on some level. Now, I understand villains aren’t always bad guys sometimes they can be forces… this section isn’t for that.
How would you describe the relationship between the hero and the villain?
Do these characters stand for something to you as a reader?
Were there moments when you felt compelled by the villain’s point of view?
Do you think that these two characters have a huge effect on each other?
What are your thoughts on this relationship, does it do anything for you in terms of story?
Reader Relationship with Characters
Most of the time, it’s easy to gauge a reader’s relationship to the characters in feedback. It’s one of those things we all love to do. And it’s something that makes us want to read the story. But not everyone does that, especially those times when the reader is a line editing type. These types of questions can get very specific so I’ll leave the thought hanging there. Another thing I want to point out though, the feedback sometimes only focuses on characters as individuals and not the interactions. Likewise, sometimes there are turning points in our stories where we really want to know how people feel.
Do you have a favorite character? What about them can you relate to? Does anything bother you about them?
What is your least favorite character? Is there a personality trait? Do they remind you of someone?
When this one thing happens to the character how did you feel?
When this thing happens in this interaction how did you feel?
Do any of the characters make you think? Are you excited to see anyone in particular on the page?
Emotional Reactions and the Character
Let’s face it… we want it. Knowing how the reader feels is crucial in our process and it’s one of the reason we invest so much time in our work. We want people to feel something. And hopefully, if we do our job right, it’s something in the right direction. This one could go on forever… I should post on this. 🙂
When were you most (insert emotion here)?
Are there any scenes that seemed like you should feel something but didn’t?
Were there moments of boredom, impatience, skimming?
Is there a character you felt like got you? How did you respond to their actions/decisions?
Was there anyone in the story you wished you could be like?
Milestones for Character Development
There are moments of transformation in any book. Sometimes it’s a scene. Sometimes a line. But it’s there. A moment when they evolve… but do your readers catch it? It’s important they do.
What do you think were the biggest turning points for this character?
Did you see their development going in a predictable direction?
Were you excited to see how they evolved?
How do you feel about their evolution?
Themes and the Character
I’ve covered this one in the past but sometimes plots are more layered than they first appear. There are some basic questions that can give the writer a lot of insight into their story. I’m not talking about the movement of events here, I’m talking themes.
What do you think are the overall themes of the story? Do you think they were done well?
What made this story worth your time?
How do you think the characters tackled these themes?
Do the characters work with the themes of the work?
Dialogue and the Character
Stories really have two types of conversation. The characters interacting with each other and the characters interacting with themselves. Both act as powerful demonstrations of who these people are. And both deserve some serious questions.
Did the dialogue between the characters serve the story well?
Were there any character interactions that didn’t work for you?
Do any of the characters ever lose their voice?
When exploring a character’s inner world do they have any moments that hit you?
How about moments where it didn’t work?
Setting and the Character
Settings tend to be a reflection of the world and the characters within it. It’s a package because we are impacted by the world/culture/etc. that we live in. This isn’t about me writing a diatribe on nature vs. nurture but it is something to take into account when placing characters in a world.
Does the world reflect the themes of the story?
Were there moments when the characters felt out of place?
Were there moments when the world and the characters blended in a way you liked?
Did you feel that the character fit in the settings they were placed in?
If there were moments when they didn’t fit in how did you feel about it? Was it addressed?