Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Character Profile Questions: Halloween

I'd like to start by saying Happy Halloween everyone!

We did our trick or treating last night.  My husband requested the night off work so we could take our kids out.  Jude dressed as a robot, and Lyle dressed as a dinosaur.  The robot costume was obviously homemade.  We initially made to decision to build the costume in our kitchen to save money, but it sure didn't work out that way.  Oh well!  He sure got lots of comments on it.

Dressed up and ready to go. It's too bright outside to see that
the robot costume lights up.

Here's a picture of what the costume looks like
in the dark.
In the spirit of Halloween, I thought I'd post something related to this most spooktacular of holidays.  After much thought, I decided to address the subject of holidays in fiction.  With that in mind, I thought I'd add a new character profile question and go over why said question might be an important one to ask.

As writers, we all need to ask ourselves certain questions about our characters. Some may seem simple yet fundamental, while others seem strange.  Yet these weird questions can be just as fundamental.  You only need ask them to see how valuable they are.  Here's a list of questions (with links) to some questions I've addressed in the past.

Question #1: Time Travel
In a time travel scenario, how would this character react if they met an older version themselves?  How would the older version react?

Question #2: Weapon
If your character is faced with a situation where they have to fight, what weapon would they choose?  (This can include any real or fictional weapon.)  And when they fight, do they fight to kill, or merely to wound or frighten?

Question #3: Ultimate Questions
If your character could ask any question, no matter how big, and get an answer, what would he/she/it ask?

Question #4: Organization
How does your character organize their personal space?  The space in question can be a desk, backpack, purse, or briefcase.  Are they meticulous, or are they sloppy?  Have they always been this way, and why?

Now for the question.  Are you ready for it?

Are you sure?

Okay.  I'm just kidding.

Question #5: Holidays
What holidays does your main character celebrate, if any?  How do they choose to celebrate them, and why is the holiday important to their lives?

Today's question may not be bizarre, but it might be essential, and some people may not think to ask it.  It's easy to assume that a character will have a similar cultural background to the writer that created them, but those assumptions aren't always correct.  And even if the background is similar, whether a character chooses to celebrate a particular holiday has everything to do with who they are as a person.  It can say a lot about a character's religious affiliation, family history, feelings regarding tradition, and many other things.

Holidays are an important part of who we are.  They celebrate our culture, and they give us a sense of tradition that both grounds us in who we are and lets us enjoy a day out of the ordinary routine.

Since we come from different backgrounds, we don't all celebrate the same holidays.  When you're creating an alien race, choosing holidays for them to celebrate can say a lot about their cultural values.  Klingons, for example have robust holidays focusing on honor.

Now, as it is Halloween, I figured I'd give some examples of questions we could ask about whether our characters celebrate Halloween, and how the different responses might reflect who they are.

Image courtesy of digitalart
First off, if a character lives in the United States during modern day and chooses not to celebrate Halloween, we can ask why.  Perhaps religious beliefs dictate that they cannot participate in such a holiday.  If that's the case, it says a lot about what is most precious to them, and indicates what some of their other beliefs might be.  Or maybe it's something else altogether.  Maybe this character thinks that costumes and trick-or-treating are stupid.  It's possible (though I personally don't understand how) for a person to see such activities as a waste of time. This also gives valuable insight into who they are.

For the character who does celebrate Halloween, there are plenty more questions to ask.  How far do they go in their celebration?  Do they decorate their lawns, do they go to Halloween parties, do they host Halloween parties, do they like haunted houses? Do they play practical jokes for Halloween?  What kind of pumpkin would they carve?  Does your character prefer cute Halloween movies or terrifying ones?

Costumes are also invaluable.  Though we supposedly wear costumes to be someone else, I think we're more ourselves while in disguise than we might be on a normal day.  The costume choices say a lot about how creative we are, what kinds of movies we like, who we look up to, or how scary we like to make ourselves look.  Scientists may dress up as a favorite scientist or physical law (I've seen this happen), or someone may also dress up as an obscure historical figure, thus exposing their love of history to the world.  For those of us who choose to play along, Halloween is a great opportunity for self-expression.

So feel free to ask this question of your characters.  I've asked mine.  Even of my extraterrestrial characters.  In addition to creating holidays for them, I've also asked myself how they would react to Earthly holidays.  Trust me, the results are both fun and informative!


  1. Those are some very cute Halloween pictures! Hope they had a great time! I love the robot costume! Happy Halloween!

  2. I love those questions - very creative, and a totally new perspective on our characters. The robot costume rocks!

  3. Some good thoughts here LG. Your kids look so cute in their costumes. Hope you had tonnes of fun :)