The subject of character questionnaires arose in one of my recent online classes. I posted some I have sourced and/or generated myself over the years, but it got me thinking: Why not ask the Go Into The Story community to see what questionnaires you may use to develop your characters.

I like to figure out what qualities they have that will help the plot and what will hinder it.


Screenplays require irony, juxtaposition, complex goals, and limitations for both character and plot. Instead of the chicken/egg dilemma — this question allows you to develop both elements in a deeply integrated way.

Once you design how a character interacts with the plot you can decide if your goal in any scene is to enhance or inhibit the character — then figure out how you want to do that — which in turn fuels the plot.

It works for both internal and external goals and it’s a completely different question than what are their wants and needs. I’ve found the wants/needs question alone leads to a flat, singular character arc and doesn’t directly motivate the plot.

For me, this advance work keeps the characters consistent, well rounded, avoids a clichés, and helps create more dynamic scenes — from outline to final draft.

I began writing scripts with two other people around 1940. Up until then I wrote alone, and found that I had no difficulties. But in writing alone there is a danger that your interpretation of another human being will suffer from one-sidedness. If you write with two other people about that human being, you get at least three different viewpoints on him, and you can discuss the points on which you disagree. Also, the director has a natural tendency to nudge the hero and the plot along into a pattern that is the easiest one for him to direct. By writing with about two other people, you can avoid this danger also.

Akira Kurosawa

I wish this were a more common, accepted practice.

(Answer: Everything!) Akira Kurosawa is in a league of his own. To master filmmakers, like Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and Oliver Stone, he was the teacher, and often shared his knowledge with those who asked. Flavorwire has published a few pieces of said knowledge in the form of Kurosawa’s greatest filmmaking quotes — ones that beautifully answer questions about the craft, advise us on storytelling, and remind us why we fell in love with cinema in the first place.

The act of creating is more than slapping paint onto canvas or tossing some actors onto a set — it’s a delicate, vicious, scary, lonely, hopeful, hopeless, and utterly complicated and seemingly impossible process. But most of all, it’s intimate and personal.