Years ago when my friends and I were just starting out on what turned into the Tai-Pan Project, we came up with a uniform way to develop our characters -- a Character Information Sheet (which we'd used before in other fandoms like Elfquest, I used to run an Elfquest Holt and so did Whitney the person who was originally in charge of our Tai-Pan Project) and a Character Questionaire. The CIS was basic information about the character -- name, height, clothing, hair color, special possessions, background. The Questionaire was a set of 50 questions that you were supposed to answer as if the character themselves were providing the answers. You didn't have to answer all of them, but it was an excellent way to get into the mind of the character and develop background information about them.
I've been concerned that my Grandpa Anarchy stories suffer from ill-defined characters. I have a very good handle on who and what Grandpa Anarchy is, but a lot of the other characters are not so well defined. They don't have back stories, they don't have likes or dislikes, they don't have clear speaking voices. Many of them show up in a single story and for that it's fine if Handheld Tablet Boy doesn't have a lengthy back story or much to define him besides a name, costume, and general theme. There's only so much you can do in the space of a given story. But some of my characters have appeared in a dozen stories now and are regular characters, but when I have a group of them together they don't necessarily stand out from each other in the ways that they should. I don't know enough about them.
So one of my goals is to fill out a Character CIS/Questionaire for each of my major heroes and villains. It's a big project -- filling just one of these out can take several hours, longer than it usually takes me to write a short story. I've been meaning to do this for months and moved closer to doing it several weeks ago, but today was the first time I really sat down and filled out an entire questionaire.
For this one I chose DarkFireNinjaCatgirl because she's rather shallow and easy to get a grasp on. But I still learned quite a bit by filling it out. Her voice came out -- a tendency to run-on sentences with no pauses -- and I learned several things that had happened in her past which may (or may not) prove useful in the future. Since these questionaires are largely meant for the writer's eyes only (and since I'm more or less the only writer on the project -- a friend is working on one or three Grandpa Anarchy stories but I haven't seen them yet) I thought I would post a few of my favorite replies from what I came up with today:
9. Did you have a happy childhood? No I had a tragic childhood my father was killed by a rival ninja gang my mother was raped and tortured and I spent years on the run learning the skills of a ninja who could control darkness and fire until I was able to rain down revenge on those who have wronged me wouldn't that make a really cool movie I think Summer Glau should play the part of me DarkFireNinjaCatgirl except I was a boy back then so they'd have to use makeup on her or something but she'd be awesome as a ninja catgirl. I made all of that up by the way my real life was pretty boring except when I first told my parents that I was a catgirl now instead of their son there was a lot of shouting that one time so I went to Dahlia's house for Thanksgiving this year her parents are pretty cool.
12. What kind of education have you had? I studied under Master Ninja Rabbi Yoshida Khandi Horowitz for almost a year and a half he's an a Buddhist-Hindu-Judaism ascethic who lives the life of a ninja hermit in the Manhatten subways you wouldn't think that combination would work but it does he has a lot of great sayings that combine Buddhist-Hindu-Hebrew thought. I'm not making this part up you can look him up on Youtube people take videos of him in the subways preaching all of the time I'm in one of them.
14. What is your deepest fear? I'm afraid of whales like killer whales or even big blue whales that could accidentally swallow you and not even know it because of their size and also giant squids which are called Architeuthis they are really huge and can sink ships I think and also megalodon sharks which they say are extinct but I know they aren't because Grandpa Anarchy fought one once only he didn't get pictures of it. I think his sidekick died in that fight.
17. What makes you angry? How do you react when you're angry? When I'm angry I say, "Now you face the wrath of DarkFireNinjaCatgirl, your life is forfeit!" or something like that only cooler because you want it to be original so that when people see it in the movies they remember it and repeat that line forever. I'm still trying to figure out what the actual words should be because coming up with a really original and cool line in the middle of a fight is hard. People who disrespect my skills make me angry especially how people treat me like a kid and its even worse now that I'm a girl I had no idea how people ignore everything you say just because you're a catgirl with ADD.
20. How religious are you? Master Ninja Rabbi Yoshida Khandi Horowitz taught me a lot about religion but it kind of got all messed up all I remember is don't look at the jar but at what's inside and all evil done clings to the body and there's no smoke without fire and better to shave the heart than to shave the head and meeting is only the beginning of separation I don't know what that means though.
25. Describe a situation where you feel you have behaved courageously. Every day I behave like a courageous heroic ninja warrior but this one time I fought a giant squid monster with Grandpa Anarchy or maybe it was an elder god but anyway there were lots of tentacles and I hate sea monsters but I fought really well. Also when I was a bridesmaid at the wedding of Fire Maiden and Lady Lune I had to wear a bridesmaid dress which was embarrassing even though I'm a girl now I don't wear dresses very often especially ones with flowers like that.
35. Name the four things you most often object to in yourself. I talk too much for a ninja I should be quiet and sneaky but I just can't seem to stop talking all the time I talked a lot when I was a boy but now I'm even worse Dahlia says so too. I need to concentrate more I'm good at concentrating on fighting when I'm practicing or working out but schoolwork I'm bad at. Also I wish I could come up with more clever catch phrases or lines to say when I'm facing a villain that's one thing that Grandpa Anarchy has always been good at you know he's a hero because he always has great lines. Dahlia says I need to learn to be more feminine which is kind of a contradiction because she's always saying that gender roles as determined by society are sexist and stereotype people and force people to act contrary to their own desires or to not express their true selves and my true self is that I was a boy who got turned into a catgirl and it was my choice but I don't see why I should have to wear a dress.
36. How gullible are you? I tore a pillow factory apart because Lune told me that it was a criminal operation they had Big Bird kidnapped an in a cage and were making pillows from Big Bird's feathers it worked because he's such a big bird that there were enough feathers and they grew back really quick and Dahlia lectured Lune about teasing me and she lectured me about being gullible for believing that story and also we had to pay the factory $500,000 in repairs and I chipped my Cyborg Ninja Full Tang Black Blade sword when I tried to chop a machine in half. So now when Lune tells me something I have to check with Dahlia to see if its true before I start attacking things.
39. How attractive are you physically? Playboy offered me $600,000 to pose naked I was going to do it but Black Dahlia forbid it and gave me a long lecture about the exploitation of women and I don't know because girls pose naked all the time look at what Miley Cyrus is doing but Dahlia is smart she says I should listen to what Sinéad O'Connor says but anyway we don't really need the money I guess. But when Playboy wants you to pose for them it's not because you're hideous it's because you've got a hot body, and I was a boy once so I know.
42. How do you feel about violence? Under what circumstances would you kill another sentient being, and how does killing others affect you? Well violence is kind of like my job so I'm all for it especially when bad guys are going to do something evil you have to stop them by any means necessary I killed a villain named King of the Vertically Challenged he was going to blow up a train and I stopped him and Grandpa threw the bomb off the train and it accidentally blew up a luxury yacht but Grandpa said it was okay because it belonged to Ichabod Berelli who runs I.B. Corporation and is a villain named Idiot Ball I never fought him but basically it was good that I killed that villain because it saved a lot of lives, except for the dog on the yacht.
44. What is the difference between good and evil? Evil people wear black like evil ninjas but good ninjas wear black too and so does Dark Dr. Dark and Black Dahlia and Johnny Cash so I guess the real difference is if you're blowing stuff up or stopping people from blowing stuff up. Also good guys always win Grandpa Anarchy taught me that.
49. What types of literature/entertainment do you enjoy? I like movies and anime especially but I really liked Wreck-It Ralph that was cool because it was about video games and Tron was cool too. Black Dahlia told me to read Catcher in the Rye for homework and I liked that one a lot too but I don't read books unless I have to if Dahlia tells me to for homework.
50. What person do you think has had the most influence on you and your life? Master Ninja Rabbi Yoshida Khandi Horowitz taught me everything I know except the part where I'm not an old man who lives in the subway and doesn't do anything really.