Every Sunday, the feature SHANNON MUIR’S MYSTERY OF CHARACTER on SHANNON MUIR’S THE PULP AND MYSTERY SHELF focuses on the art and craft of writing from Shannon’s perspective, or gives you insight on her process as an author.

This week features Shannon looking into how asking questions helps develop characters.

This is a combination of two columns previously done at a sister site.

One way to dig into the depth of character, I believe, is to throw something unexpected or anticipated in their direction. Once you’ve established to the reader what a character appears to be the normal environment, test them by having something happen. Do they weather it the same, or does it change them?

I’ve found when trying a test like this, that more often than not the character grows and changes. The result is an intriguing ride to be on. I can only hope that my readers also enjoy the resulting adventure.

Here are examples of the kinds of questions you can pose:

“What if the character witnesses a murder?”

“What if the character didn’t go to college?”

“What if the character left someone standing at the altar?”

“What if the character doesn’t like ice cream?”

The questions could be as serious or as silly as you like. Don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone and think what if questions that you aren’t sure you’ll be comfortable answering. The more you ask, the better chance you have of getting to know a fully realized character.

Until next time!