Years ago, I came across a questionnaire for people to use when creating their player characters (PCs) for Dungeons and Dragons or other roleplaying games. I started using it to gain insight into the characters in my screenplays, and something unexpected happened.
This questionnaire asks you to answer the questions as if you were your character. Aside from the typical character-questionnaire-type questions (birthplace, family, schooling, etc.), this exercise had quite a few questions about characters' morals. One of them went like this:
In your opinion, what is the most evil thing [anyone] could do?
For one of my screenplays, the villain was among the first characters for whom I filled out the questionnaire. This baddie, whose name is Damien, betrayed his surrogate brother, tried to steal his throne, and led an armed rebellion that resulted in many deaths. And that's just his backstory!
So, at the risk of stating the obvious, I knew that Damien isn't a good guy. At all.
But when I came to the aforementioned question for Damien, this was the surprising result:
Q: "In your opinion, what is the most evil thing [anyone] could do?" Damien: "You think you're being subtle. Next question."
At that moment, I knew I'd gotten into Damien's head. It was one of those rush-of-excitement moments that we writers long for and love. All from a silly questionnaire that I wasn't even using as designed.
I highly recommend this type of exercise. Just Google "character questionnaire," find one you like, and have at it. You never know what you'll learn about your characters.
P.S. What would your characters' answers to this question be? Let me know in the comments!
(Thanks to Daniil Kuželev for sharing their work on Unsplash.)