Character Development Questions: What & Why You Should Ask

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Your job as an actor is to give life to your character, to be able to relay a story through the eyes of your character. A great actor can do this to the point that the character they portray has many different dimensions. With many dimensions and layers, a character truly becomes real to an audience. Thus, it is really important for an actor to take the time to develop their character. Without preparation all you have to work with is a very flat character who comes across as uninteresting, fake, and un-relatable. So, you might need to have everything clear before you begin working. This is also why you need to ask character development questions.

This article will give you some tips on developing a character that comes to life for an audience. It will also show you some character development questions to consider. They help you create those multiple layers that will make a character memorable.

actor guest at golf

6 Character Development Questions and Tips

1. Why Take the Time to Read a Script?

Before you go to a job interview, it is usually a good idea to familiarize yourself with the company and the position you are applying for. As an actor, you are being asked to represent a character, a vision. You have already gotten the job.

Wouldn’t you want to do your best so that you can begin to build your reputation as a professional actor? So many actors go straight to performing without reading through a script. How can you possibly figure out how to represent someone without delving into the material?

2. What to Look for in a Script

The script will show you everything you need to know about your character. The more facts you know about your character, the more accurately you will be able to react how they would or show feeling the way they would in any given situation. So what should you look for while reading the script? Think about all sorts of character development questions. Pay attention to your characters reaction to things. Pick up on their likes and dislikes. Keep in mind general information such as age and gender, what family unit they reside in, where they live. All of these aspects can give you an inside look because different aspects will affect the way a person develops.

The better you get to know your character; the more character development questions you answer, the better acting you can produce. You will find it is easier for you to create those character layers and keep your portrayal realistic, smooth, and consistent. Try to really get to know your character inside and out.

3. Find Common Ground

Even though when you are acting your main goal is to represent someone else, it is a good idea to find something of yourself within that role. Make some sort of connection to your character. See a little bit of yourself in them or find a way to empathize or relate. When you make your character something more personal to you, that tie or band you create can really help you to bring your acting across more naturally and realistically.

Now, it may be difficult in some situations. Perhaps you are filling the role of a serial killer but personally you wouldn’t hurt a fly. You do not have to condone your characters personality flaws and actions. Instead, find a level of understanding that allows you to realize why they act like they do. Even creating this slight understanding bond with your character can really help you bring across them convincingly to the audience.

4. The Basics – What You Should Do

  • Read your script: Read everything, not just your lines. Read the entire script and get to know the atmosphere, setting, other characters interactions. You can even read other works that were written by the same playwright to get a better feel for their style. And while you do this, keep in mind character development questions.
  • Do some research: Learn things beyond what is written in your character’s lines. Research the time period. Research the setting. Things that are normal in one area of the world may be strange in another. Reactions to things may come across very differently. Look at the politics and culture related to the area. All of these things can give you a more intimate of why your character is the way he or she is.
  • Practice: Learning your lines is obviously an important aspect of creating your character and doing your job well. Really that is only a small part of the process. Take the time to rehearse over and over. Do so in front of different people who can give you constructive criticism. This way, you can see if you are accurately portraying what you are trying to. If not, make adjustments to see if you can more accurately show your character’s layers.

woman reading script

5. The Basics – What You Should Not Do

  • Do not just simply read with feeling: Having emotion that accompanies your lines is important in itself. However, it is not what makes a performance. Keep in mind the character development questions and what you have learned from them. If you simply put feeling with your lines, that is exactly all it will be without that understanding and bond with your character. Your goal is to craft a character who is saying each line with a specific thought process and rationale.
  • Steer clear of stereotypes: Just because you are cast as a character type, does not mean that they fit that stereotype. Use character development questions to help you realize why that person acts like they do. What happened in their past? Why do you think they act like that? When you can create that connection, you can create your character more accurately.
  • Do not think of it as a play: A script mirrors life. Characters are based on real-life people. Get to know the environment they were exposed to. Is your character a barista? Go to a café and observe the interaction around you, the sounds, the atmosphere. When you get yourself into that environment, you get a better understanding. Think about their life. What could frustrate them here? How would they interact with that customer? How about that one? Would their personality interfere with something here? Get out there and see things for yourself. Do not just imagine it behind a script.

6. Ask Character Development Questions

There are simple character development questions you can consider while creating your role.

  • Who am I? When you play a character, you should know them as well as you know yourself. Think about how you would answer this question if you were asked. Answer it similarly for your character. Things may include: background, family, favorites, dislikes, childhood, your home, job, experiences, friends, etc.
  • Where am I? Are you somewhere familiar to your character? At home? What are your surroundings? How do you feel in this environment? Knowing these things will help you realize how your character feels here and how they would act in this place.
  • When? What time period is this play in? Is it summer or a cold winter night? We carry ourselves differently based on the weather. People would carry themselves differently in an urban street vs. a turn of the century marketplace. Gestures and expressions while proper in one era, may not be appropriate in another.
  • What are my wants? What is your character’s goal? Also, what do they wish to accomplish? What is the justification for the motivation? Find their intentions and motivation for their actions and proceedings throughout the play. It will help you drive the character and make your portrayal more believable.
  • How? How will the character go about attaining their goal? Is there a better way? What will happen if the goal is not attained? What consequences are there?
  • How do I feel in this moment? Your character will go through a plethora of different emotions. Sometimes it is easy to break a script down by emotional changes. Practice these in segments and in front of others to see if you are coming across appropriately. You can affect the audience. Just make sure you are conveying the correct feelings.

character actor questions

Summing Up

One of the best things you can do for your acting is to really get to know your character the best you can. This article has given you some character development questions to consider in order to do so. Making sure you know all there is to know about the role you will play will help you come across to the audience in the right manner. It will help you with your tone, gestures, and attitude while you read your lines. If you rely only on lines, you are not giving the full picture. Instead of a multi-layered performance, you will give a very flat one.

What other character development questions do you feel are important to consider as you learn your role? Is there any advice or experiences you have to develop a character that other actors can learn from? Leave any helpful comments below.