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101 Ice Breaker Questions to Develop Your Novel’s Cast of Characters

Authors are typically socially awkward creatures and avoid parties, it’s true. We want to be invited, but actually attending them leaves us panicky, shaky, and hiding behind the potted palm with the whole bowl of shrimp dip.

One of my favorite hobbies is complaining about how I don’t have friends or anywhere to go, then staring in horror when my phone rings or diving behind the couch when a knock is heard at my door.

I like to write about parties. I am inept at attending them.

The reclusive author was found later the next morning, rocking in the fetal position, a bag of pita chips cradling her head of frizzy, last night’s curls, mumbling incoherently about socializing, and being forced to answer questions about her book – ‘I DON’T KNOW!’ – she shouted suddenly, spraying the lawn gnome with a mixture of tears, despair, and garlic parmesan crumbs.

The party goers who had stayed overnight, having wisely abstained from driving while under the influence of mango wine coolers, walked a wide berth around her, trying not to point or stare, and made mental notes to themselves to encourage their offspring to become astronauts, cowboys, dentists, or lawyers. But not authors.

Never authors.

~ Tales From My Life, or Lack Thereof, by Yours Truly.

But one good thing that comes from parties and crowds and socializing is the ice breaker questions we use to get to know one another.

Awkward, sure. But oh-so useful when you’re stuck on a character in your head.

You have a name, you have a reason for their being, but they’re dull. Lifeless. As exciting as a box of hammers.

They need background, they need a reason for living, they need their own story. From the smallest side personality to your super villain, if they’re as exciting as yesterday’s coffee, try having them answer some simple, yet intriguing ice-breaker questions.

Just maybe answer them in your head or on paper, not aloud. Especially if you’re in a crowded coffee shop.

101 Ice Breaker Questions to Develop Your Novel’s Cast of Characters

1. What is your middle name?
2. Where were you born?
3. If you were an animal, which animal would you be?
4. Do you have siblings? Are they all living?
5. Who did you vote for in the last election?
6. Do you prefer summer or winter?
7. What was your favorite game to play as a child?
8. What’s your vice?
9. What’s your passion?
10. What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
11. What’s the most cowardly?
12. Can you wake up on time without an alarm clock?
13. What was the name of your first pet?
14. Did you have an imaginary friend as a child?
15. Do you have one now?
16. Can you drive a stick shift? What about a tractor? Or a motorcycle?
17. What’s the closest to death you’ve ever come?
18. Do you believe in life after death?
19. What about reincarnation?
20. What is your guilty pleasure in foods?
21. What is your guilty pleasure in television?
22. What is your guilty pleasure in films?
23. What is your guilty pleasure in songs/bands?
24. If you could be anyone else for a day, living or dead, fictional or real, who would it be?
25. What is one television show you’ve seen every single episode of?
26. What makes you cry?
27. Do you have any food allergies?
28. What’s your least favorite household chore?
29. Who was your best friend when you were 16?
30. Name a fictional character’s death you never got over.
31. Name a real person’s death you never got over.
32. Can you cook?
33. Can you bake?
34. If you made me a mix tape/playlist with six songs, what would they be?
35. Would you rather go to the opera or the ballet?
36. Have you ever been hospitalized?
37. What is your nickname?
38. How many piercings do you have?
39. Tattoos?
40. What was the last gravesite you visited?
41. What makes you laugh the hardest?
42. How many languages do you speak?
43. What are your phobias?
44. How many houses have you lived in?
45. How many states/countries/cities have you lived in?
46. Have you ever broken the law?
47. Were you caught?
48. Do you prefer sugar or salt?
49. Would you rather go camping or go to the spa?
50. Do you use butter or margarine?
51. Do you bake your cookie dough or eat it raw?
52. Is your hair naturally curly and do you straighten it?
53. Is your hair naturally straight and do you curl it?
54. Have you ever broken a bone?
55. What was your most embarrassing moment?
56. What’s the most frightened you’ve ever been?
57. Who in your life do you dislike the most?
58. Who in your life do you love the most?
59. Are they alive or dead?
60. What’s your favorite drink?
61. Do you use a bookmark or dog ear the pages?
62. Do you speed while driving?
63. Are you a control freak?
64. Are you a talker or a listener?
65. Would you rather read Shakespeare or Jane Austen?
66. Irma Bombeck or Leo Tolstoy?
67. Did you play with toys as a child?
68. What toy was your favorite?
69. If they handed out trophies just for living, what would yours be?
70. Can you sight read music?
71. Do you instinctively know which way is North, South, East, and West, even in a new
town?
72. Are you a good actor?
73. Can you dance?
74. Do you have an artistic side?
75. What is it?
76. Have you ever been in a car accident?
77. Have you ever been in an airplane?
78. Have you ever swam in the ocean?
79. Have you ever been lost?
80. Have you ever had a penpal?
81. If you could trade places with someone for a week, who would it be?
82. Why?
83. Do you lick the cake batter off the beaters?
84. What’s the most expensive item that you own?
85. Where is it?
86. Do you own any pets?
87. Have you ever won an award for anything?
88. Have you ever been unjustly fired from a job?
89. What about justifiably fired from a job?
90. Do you always eat three meals a day?
91. What causes you to be anxious?
92. Do you wear glasses or contacts?
93. What is your weakness?
94. If you could have superhero powers, would you choose?
95. Do you stand out in a crowd, or blend in?
96. Is that on purpose or unintentional?
97. What is your favorite color?
98. If you had to eat the same breakfast every morning for the rest of your life, what would
you choose?
99. How many times have you been in love?
100. Are you in love right now?
101. Describe your loneliest moment.

Got Blocked?

This list of questions is a great way to help you get through a bad case of writer’s block. From more ideas on beatin’ the block, read this.

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Writer Resources: 101 Ice Breaker Questions to Develop Your Novel's Characters