NaNoFeed: Who are your people? A magic tool for finding out!

The best part of National Novel Writing Month is reading the forums and picking up new and interesting ideas about how to write. Once in a while I encounter something truly magical that revolutionizes my practice as a writer.

So here it is: Thirty Question Character Survey, or Thirty Day Character Questionnaire.

Day 01 – introduce yourself, in great detail

Day 02 – Your first love, in great detail

Day 03 – Your parents, in great detail

Day 04 – What you ate today, in great detail

Day 05 – Your definition of love, in great detail

Day 06 – Your day, in great detail

Day 07 – Your best friend, in great detail

Day 08 – A moment, in great detail

Day 09 – Your beliefs, in great detail

Day 10 – What you wore today, in great detail

Day 11 – Your siblings, in great detail

Day 12 – What’s in your bag, in great detail

Day 13 – This week, in great detail

Day 14 – What you wore today, in great detail

Day 15 – Your dreams, in great detail

Day 16 – Your first kiss, in great detail

Day 17 – Your favorite memory, in great detail

Day 18 – Your favorite birthday, in great detail

Day 19 – Something you regret, in great detail

Day 20 – This month, in great detail

Day 21 – Another moment, in great detail

Day 22 – Something that upsets you, in great detail

Day 23 – Something that makes you feel better, in great detail

Day 24 – Something that makes you cry, in great detail

Day 25 – A first, in great detail

Day 26 – Your fears, in great detail

Day 27 – Your favorite place, in great detail

Day 28 – Something that you miss, in great detail

Day 29 – Your aspirations, in great detail

Day 30 – One last moment, in great detail

User testimonial: This questionnaire gave me the plot, more or less, for last year’s NaNo novel. I’d won before, but 2010 was the first time I actually had a complete plot arc. It was instrumental in the revision of the novel. I used it to interview the other six major characters, which gave me the shape of the rest of the novel as well as multiple stories in the same universe.

Some of the responses to the questionnaire are stand-alone fictions all by themselves. That led me to suggest to a fellow NaNo novelist that she pick out two or three characters and use the questionnaire as the framework for her novel. Guaranteed, the result will be a story, especially as the characters start talking to each other as well as to the interviewer. (And who knows but that the interviewer might also be a character in the same story.)

What’s the magic? The interview format requires you to step into the character’s skin to answer, to speak as “I” rather than to speak about “him” or “her” or “them.” The odd juxtapositions have some of the generative randomness of real conversation; I’ve always been surprised at the strange and beautiful things that result.

Source: Variously known as the Thirty Question Character Survey or (my name for it) the Thirty Day Character Questionnaire, it was originally posted by NaNoWriMo participant R. M. Anton, who reports to me in private correspondence that it’s probably a journal meme that they had saved at some point. (Anyone who can supply a more precise citation, please feel free to note in comments below.)


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7 Responses to NaNoFeed: Who are your people? A magic tool for finding out!

  1. kiwikar says:

    I was just browsing WP looking for Blogs with the NaNoWriMo-Tag and found this. I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo the first time this year and I am not really sure how to start. I have some sort of a plot idea and it actually fits quite well with some of the tasks described above, so thank you very much for sharing this!

  2. Silverbirch says:

    Now that is a stroke of genius. I will do it next year and reading through the 30 headings certainly my male character stared to come to life. It all puts him within his Universe and anything I can’t answer I’d need to find out anyway.

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