on Fiction University:
Even if you do little to no character development before you start writing, asking this one question can pinpoint the core of who that character is.
Since I write science fiction and fantasy, those character templates with tons of questions never worked for me. They’re always rooted in the real world and I spent too much time trying to figure out if “god-appointed assassin” was their employment, religion, or maybe even a calling.
I can see the appeal of such a questionnaire, but I tend to be a minimalist when creating characters. I like to learn who they are by tossing them into the plot and seeing what they do. But it helps to have a starting point for those characters, otherwise they develop willy nilly and feel completely inconsistent and at odds with themselves. They make decisions based on plot (what I want) and not what they want.
There are myriad of ways to create characters. Problem is, there are so many of them that we can spend all of our time answering questions and filling out forms and never actually write the novel those characters exist in. I wanted a shortcut that pinpointed who a character was at the core. An easy question that encapsulated that character well enough to guide me during a first draft.
And then I found it.