We're stepping out of the box today, all. We're being edgy; one of a kind. Why? Well, in addition to all my previous sentences s...

    We're stepping out of the box today, all. We're being edgy; one of a kind. Why? Well, in addition to all my previous sentences starting with 'w', I've decided to branch out my "Questions to Ask When..." series! For all past posts in this blog series, I've focused on questions to ask when world-building, but in prep for NaNo, I thought it might be nice to give you a list of questions to develop your characters!

    Never fear; I will continue doing these kinds of posts for world-building in the future as well, but this one and next week's will revolve around characters. The theme for this week's? Backstory!

    Backstory is crucial for characters. Unless your story starts the moment they're born, your character will have lived many years already. Figuring the ups and downs of their past will give you deep insight into who they are as a person. So let's get to some questions you can ask about them!

1) Where were they born? In a hospital, a home, elsewhere? Who delivered them; a midwife, a doctor, a relative? Were there any complications? Did their mother survive? Who was present to witness their birth?

2) What name were they first given? Who choose it for them, and why? How, and why, has their name changed over time?

3) How has their living situation changed from when they were born economically, socially, and geographically? In other words, has their family gained or lost a fortune? Has someone close to them died? Have they moved house?

4) What occupations did their parents have when they were born? Did it ever change as they grew older? How has this influenced the way they think about the world, and what they were trained in?

5) At what age did they begin school, or training? Did they ever learn to read or write? Why or why not? How high can they count, and which languages were they taught?

6) Who was their first childhood friend? Where did they meet? What is their happiest memory of them, and their worst? Are they still friends? Why or why not?

7) Did they have any childhood enemies? What caused the tension between them if they can remember? Are they now friends, or still enemies?

8) How did their parents' ethnicity influence what kind of culture they grew up in? Did this cause them to feel "different" from others their age, or did they not care? Which culture would they consider themselves to be a part of, then and now?

9) What kind of religious beliefs did their parents hold? Did they teach these to them from birth? Were there any ceremonies they made the character take part in, to initiate them into the religion, with or without their permission?

10) How many siblings did they have? Did they fight often; what about? Which sibling are they closest to, and why?

11) What is their fondest childhood memory? Who or what is in it? Is this memory accurate, or a lie they have told themselves?

12) If they could name the worst moment of their life, what would it be? How has that changed them as a person? How has it changed how they see the world, themselves, and others?

13) What sights, smells, tastes, sounds, and textures do they associate with their childhood, or teen years? 

14) If they were to make a timeline with their key life events, which ones would they list? Which ones would they leave out? Why?

15) Have they ever moved house, city, or country? What led to this change? Which place do they consider their "home"? Do they view this move or its cause with bitterness, hope, something else?

16) How would they describe themselves as a child? How would their family, friends, describe them? 

17) What's the hardest lesson they had to learn growing up? Who or what taught it to them?

18) What kind of friends did they have? Were they a "good" or "bad" influence? How did they change them? How long did they remain friends? Did they spend more time at their friends' house than their own?

19) Which occupations did your character want to be in growing up? Is this the same as what they wish to be, or are in, now? What inspired them to want this career?

20) Did they face any kind of bullying or abuse? How has this altered them? Does this still affect them today, and how?

21) Are there any aspects of their past they keep secret from those around them? Why? Or are they very open about their past?

22) What role have the arts (literature, music, dance, etc.) had in their life? Have they given them a sense of belonging, of wonder, or do they not connect with them at all? How have their culture's arts impacted them?

23) Did they live near extended family? How did this shape their family environment? Are any of their relatives near their age? Is there any relative they despise, or one they couldn't imagine living without?

24) What was the stupidest thing they did growing up? Did they break any laws, pull a prank, disappoint a parent?

25) Would they rather go back and relive their childhood, or do they never wish to return to it? Why?

Are you participating in NaNo? What's one key element of your character's backstory? Any topic you'd love for me to write questions for?
Have fun answering these questions, and have a great day! <3

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  1. Wonderful post, Melissa! I think you should collect these Questions to Ask posts and stick them all into a book. I would love these in a book format and even have worksheets in the back for our own use *wink*. Just an idea.


    1. Thanks Catherine! I've actually been thinking of something along those lines for awhile now. I'll play around with the idea, and let you know if it's going to happen! Thank you for your support of this series, and for commenting! :)

  2. YES! I agree with Catherine ^ I would buy it. <3

    1. Awww thanks Gray! Like I told Catherine, I'm currently playing around with the idea. xD Thank you for commenting!

  3. Aaaahhh, Melissa, you always come up with such great questions!!! <3

  4. THESE ARE THE BEST MELISSA <3 ! Thank you so much for doing these :)

  5. These are great questions! I have some backstories that need further fleshing out!


    1. Thank you! I hope they help you in fleshing out your backstories! <3

  6. As always, this was a super helpful post! I've left my NaNo prep kind of late (I only decided to do it the other day!), so I'm currently in the process of trying to come up with my characters, and so I'll definitely be using this list! :)

    1. Thanks Laura! Yay! I really hope they can help you with last minute NaNo prep, and getting to know your characters better! <3

  7. Thanks , as well. These questions are the most provactive and insightful questions I have come across so far. They'll come in helpful I'm sure.