Okay, so you’ve had this terrific idea for a novel, short story, or screenplay. You sit at your desk, blasting pages down for five hours straight. Really excited.

A couple of days later, you go back to revisit your work – and your jaw drops. But not in a good way.

All the scenarios and plot twists you came up with suddenly don’t seem that sexy, any more. And the characters, well….

A lump of Play-Doh has more. Character.

What do you do?

Well, first of all, you congratulate yourself for stopping by here. And then, you take those cardboard cut-outs you’ve created, and put them through the analysis I’ve set out for you, below.

It’s a tool I put together in response to a writing exercise devised by Melanie Anne Phillips, co-creator of Dramatica Pro, and creator of the StoryWeaver creative writing software.

The trick is to put yourself in the mindset of a behavioral psychologist, or FBI profiler. Then, of each character, ask the following questions:

What is the subject’s favorite movie?

Who is the subject’s favorite movie star?

How tall is the subject?

How old is the subject?

Is the subject sociable, or a loner?

How would you describe this person’s weight, or size?

What is this person’s ethnic or geographic origin?

How does the subject like to dress?

Does the subject have any distinguishing physical characteristics?

Does the subject have any notable behavioral quirks?

What is the subject’s personal history?

What is the subject’s romantic history?

What does the subject do for a living?

What special skills (if any) does the subject possess?

Does the subject have a moral code, or code of conduct?

What is the subject’s modus operandi (ie. the way he/she/it conducts business)?

What is this person’s typical day / night like?

Who (if anyone) does the subject work for?

What is the subject’s favorite drink?

Is the subject attractive, physically?

Does the subject smoke? And if so, what?

Does the subject swear a lot?

Is the subject honest?

Does the subject have living relatives?

Is the subject’s domestic situation a happy one?

What are the subject’s interests, or hobbies?

How would you describe the subject’s personality, or character?

Can / Does the subject use a gun?

Where does / did the subject go to school?

Is the subject in a relationship, at the moment?

Does the subject use drugs?

What kind of music does the subject like?

Who is / are the subject’s favorite musicians?

Does the subject have work-related outside interests?

What is the subjects relationship to / with the other subjects?

Does the subject have a coda, motto, or world view?

What is the subject’s workplace like?

Even if you don’t answer every question for every character, the process itself is enough to give you a greater understanding of the people you’ve imagined.

And to give them some depth.

I hope this works for you.