by Max Barry

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by The United Federation of Zitravgrad. . 120 reads.

Character-Building Questionnaire [Work In Progress]

Disclaimer: These questions are merely what I gather from experiences of amateur writing, and not a professional advice by any rate. If you have a suggestion or criticism or want me to add something, feel free to point out and I will give you credits. Currently work-in-progress, there will be more questions in the near-future.


Are you writing a national leader or a side character?

Perhaps this does not need to be said, but Nationstates is a political simulator and the emphasis of character-building generally lies with national leaders, government officials, military officers, and people who are politically influential in one way or another. While not mandatory, it is recommended that the character is related to the national politics in one way or another, or the specific roleplaying scenarios you are in.

What is your intention?

You know best. Are they meant to be a satire, or unironic? Do you mean for this character to represent a concept or a thought? What is the message you want to convey with this character's role in their universe, their stories, their personality, and even their political beliefs. Do you mean for them to be liked, disliked, or judged as they are? Are they meant to be realistic? What does it mean to be realistic? (No, wait, stop.)

How "big" do you plan to write?

Are you intended to fill an entire factbook? Or just "about enough" to be forum-ready? There is no limit except you and your audience's attention span. You do not have to do everything mentioned here. I'm just a major time-waster.

Where is your (and their) focus?

Are they entirely a creature of politics? Or are you bringing out their stories or personality more? Or perhaps they are an equal balance of political (or other) career and personal life?

Be honest: how much of yourself do you put in your character?

There is nothing wrong with them being a self-insert or a bit of Mary Sue -- that's where the fun is. But the more a character is a self-insert of yourself, the more you take in-character criticism personally. It is perhaps for the best that they are not an exact copy of yourself or your ideals.

Role, Introduction and Perspective


Presumably, the character being written is related to the nation and/or the plot -- the question here is how much impact this character will have for your nation and/or your plot. Are they right in the spotlight or on the side?


The most common way to introduce a character in NationStates is perhaps uploading a factbook and saying "There! That's my leader/character!" This takes away the problem of introduction to an extent. Meanwhile, a roleplay character might be introduced at any chapter of your roleplays. However, some nations might have continuation or timeline, which means that the nation is not static, and characters might be present during certain times (i.e. nations that roleplays with more than one period at the same time might have a leader for each era).

In wiki format, the character is usually introduced by citing overview or from early life onwards. Meanwhile, a few users have taken new initiatives to introduce the story from the middle or where it is important first.


> First person perspective can lead readers to understand or sympathize with the characters, but also can offer a biased account.
> Second person is quite rare, but addressing the readers directly captures their attention.
> Third person perspective is perhaps the most common, especially with the wiki format being the most widely used format on this website. However, there are subsets of third person perspective.
- Third Person Objective: matter-of-fact writing from neutral standpoint
- Third Person Omniscient: facts as well as interpretations of character's feelings and thoughts
- Third Person Limited: narrative from only a character's perspective

Name and Titles

What is your leader's name?

Here are some websites to get you random names:
LinkBehind The Name -- good if you also want to know the meaning of the names you are given and it also has a few functions to suit your specific needs.
LinkFantasy Name Generators -- despite the name, there are also an array of normal, real-life names to choose from.

No, wait-- they don't have a name/don't reveal it?

You can do that, too, for the sake of secrecy, dehumanization, or just "coooooool".

Who gave them the name (ICy)?

It's not that important but tidbits are what make characters more lifelike. Maybe it was their parents? Maybe it was the priest at the baptism?

What is the meaning of the name? Is there an implication in it? (i.e. meaningful names, naming after someone important)

There is a meaning behind every name and the name might give a hint or clue to what your character will be. Moreover, what might have been the intention of the one who gave your character the said name? Maybe naming them after a hero, or a loved one, or just an edgy name just so they know their kid will be a dark overlord? Anything goes.

Do they have any nickname/alias? Who gives them the nickname(s)? What are their reactions towards the nickname(s)?

With leaders being the center of attention, they are usually subjected to a few nicknames by the press or the people. Are they positive or negative? Do your characters even like those names? Moreover, there can be nicknames from people around them like friends or family as well.

What are their official titles?

Here are some references:
LinkMilitary rank titles (wikipedia) thanks to Kiu Ghesik
LinkList of political titles
LinkList of religious titles
LinkList of academic titles and abbreviations


How old is your character at the time of your nation's setting?

I know, I know. No one has ever forgotten to add this before.

When is your character born?

Picking a date of the calendar is easy, but you can spice it up by setting the date of their birth in particular season, anniversary of historical event, holidays, and so on if you want. Adds nothing much except the romanticism, I guess.

Which generation/age range does your character belong? How does this affect their worldview and political career (or any career)?

One option for the writers based on normal Earth is to abide by this Linkstereotype of generations. Meanwhile, in a sci-fi or fantasy setting, age might work differently and it is up to the writers to determine this. Once it is settled where the character stands among the population, one can start to build up the worldview not only through stereotypes of each age group but also the amount of experiences the character might have seen through the years.

Moreover, being "too young" or "too old" might have negative effects for one's career. A person too young might not be entrusted to high-level jobs due to perceived lack of experience, and a person too old might raise concerns of health and efficiency. However, there are also positive aspects -- younger people might be seen as energetic, fresh, and idealistic while older people might be seen as wise, experienced and sound. Age gives your character a certain role in the society they live in, although the matter of setting can also be adjusted. In fact, setting can also be used to emphasize this aspect (i.e. ageism, generation gap, legal age).

Nationality, Ethnicity and Race


Well, yes. It is nearly always required that a leader of a nation is natural citizen of the country they are leading. Meanwhile, other characters can explore the implications of nationality: What if they have dual citizenship? What if they are/were an immigrant? How does it affect their life and career? How do other people view them?

What is your nation's attitude towards ethnicities/races present in its nation? If so, how does it treat your character's ethnicity/race?

This could be either a point of conflict or accordance, depending on the setting itself. Your character could be anything from just someone from the majority or minorities being elected, a colonial master in a land of natives, a leader of some apartheid movement or slave revolt, a person on either side of racial segregation or even genocide. The nation could either applaud them, treat them as equal, not care, or view them in contempt -- or all at once by different cliques of the population. This is quite a worldbuilding tool in historical, sci-fi, and high fantasy settings as well as writing stories from current worldviews.

In turn, what is their attitude towards their own and other ethnicities/races?

While it is not a great trope to be a genocidal dictator #0268, it is possible that the character may hold opinions upon this issue. And the higher they are in politics, the more crucial this attitude is to the nation's narrative. Are they trying to keep certain groups down, or are they trying to make everyone equal? And we could also discuss why they chose to hold such attitude by social, political, or historical standpoint of your nation -- or just "idk they just be them". Or perhaps all these opinions are merely private while they try to keep the face of inclusiveness in public?


What is your character's religion? How is it perceived in your nation?

It could be the national religion, it could be just one of many religions, it could be oppressed -- anything! This adds into the relationship between your character and your setting, especially a place with political implications like, y'know, NationStates. Also, this includes lack of religion as well, like atheism or agnostics.

Is your character devout, moderate, skeptical, or not even there anymore?

This question is self-explanatory. Some people are in some religion just because paperwork says they are, some devote their life and soul to it, and some are sleeping during sermons but at least they are there.

Is your character demanded by society to be in the religion/career they are in? If so, what do they uphold in private?

This is usually the case for historical monarchies and theocracies -- as well as the case of people who choose to enter monastery to have an easy job (i.e. pre-revolutionary French noblemen) or avoid serving in the military (i.e. pre-Petrine Russia). If so, what faith do they uphold in secret (or open secret)?

What is your character's attitude towards religions (or lack thereof) that are not their own?

This could be either private or public, much like attitude on ethnicity and race and it could also be a groundwork for how the character interacts to different people around them as well as to their nation in general.

Professional History

What kind of job does your character have now?

Okay, you might want to say "welp, they are a leader", (unless you are making a side character, for whom you can probably just give a specific duty). But in truth, there are many flavors of being a national leader, with different amount of power and authority, as well as types of work your character prefers to do. This is a tie-in to your nation's political system, in which I have no power to interfere (lmao). A constitutional monarch may engage in charity, publicity or diplomatic missions. A strongman leader may concern themselves with military and police affairs. This can go on.

What kind of job did your character use to have?

This might or might not directly lead to their rise of power (in case of a leader). A leader's former career(s) could represent their experiences in life, their own struggles (or lack thereof), or even national values. Say, a nation that enshrines militarism will likely choose one of its prominent generals to lead the nation. Or perhaps your nation is a democracy where "anyone" can be a leader.

One more thing -- a rather niche topic, actually -- is the legality of joining political parties as soldiers, police officers, or civil servants. In some real-life countries, it is illegal for these people to join and/or lead political parties. Some timing might be needed if you are looking for your veteran character to be elected in a democratic country. (Or just set your own rules, idk, it's your nation lol.)

Language and Speech

What is your character's mother tongue? How many languages do they speak?

The mother tongue will, of course, correspond with your nation's official language(s). Other languages can also be added. There is perhaps no real restriction in this.

One trope worth exploring is a leader who does not speak the same language to their population (i.e. George I of England, or just any colonial leader). Surely, the lack of understanding might mean that they are reliant on a few translators and interpreters.

How, where, when, or why did they learn other languages? How fluent are they?

This also leads to a few adjustments for realism -- your character can learn new languages either in multilingual environment, in school, or be self-taught, they can learn such languages because they are merely interested or because such languages are considered important/sophisticated/needed for religious purpose -- all with varying degrees of fluency.

Do they have particular ways of speaking? Any accent of dialect?

While this is not easily shown in writing form (except a few accents that are plain obvious), it is still a tidbit, I guess.

Except UwU. It is a very distinct dialect.

Any catchphrase or distinct way of talking/writing?

While catchphrase is seen as silly and comical, it might be a nice addition to your character. Meanwhile, distinction in speech and writing can be defined by many qualities, such as vocabulary use, level of formality, grammar, and use of punctuation.

How does your character sound like?

As in their voice. Does it match their appearance and/or personality? How does it affect those who are listening to them? Voice is a powerful tool that can influence perception of a person. However, it is fairly difficult to give away the qualities of a voice except for adjective mashing.


Where was your character born?

This is a tie-in with the situation of their birth, nationality, and so on, or even a point of drama, or just a piece of information.

Where has your character lived?

Places one lives throughout one's life can have an affect on a person. Maybe they liked or disliked a town they lived at one point of life, and it formed their opinions on several things (especially politics because we are here).

Where do they live now?

While this is a no-brainer, residences can have political implications as well. For example, there might be leaders who do not actually live near their people (i.e. Bourbon monarchy in Versailles), and it will distance them from the population. Also, your character may live in an official residence or their own home -- this will give different feels.

Where do they work now?

I guess it is the seat of power for leader characters. What does the place look like? Does it suit their prestige or denote their style (#aesthetics)? Is it basically the same place they work?


Immediate Family -- Members, Type, Socioeconomics, and Relationship

They say family creates a person, because one does live with one's family for quite a while before settling out. Family (or even lack thereof) is one of the important factors in a character's life, especially in formative years. Relationships between family members can create cohesion or conflict in a character's life as well as shaping some traits in their personality, i.e. happy family, sibling rivalry, absent parents, being orphaned or abandoned. A character's starting socioeconomical status can also influence their early political views as well as set the tone for their life stories onward.

Once you are done with a family to which your character was born, you may continue with the family your character has created -- traditionally through marriage and having children either biologically or through adoption. How your character treats their family can be a good indicator of characters. Also, a leader's family can appear in public scenes, form their own public roles or help reinforce a leader's public image (i.e. social media or propaganda).

A Leader's Partner and Romantic Relationship: How to Approach Them

As apparent both in history and today, the partner of a national leader has been one of the most powerful unofficial positions in politics. However, many authors here decide to skip over this topic and include the name of their leader's spouse as a piece of information in the factbook. That approach is perfectly fine as well -- relationships, especially romantic ones, might not be a cup of tea for everyone, and the partner character can potentially grow into yet another character one has to work on. Likewise, romantic relationship is a do-or-don't topic -- some authors embrace it, and some do not. As sappy as it may sound, it can be a fairly noticeable part of one's personality.

There is much potential for a character from who and how they are in a relationship, especially a marriage or long-term relationship. In a setting like NS, marriage could always be more than romantic relationship, it could have political implications. Even spouses of republican leaders can have political implications, like real-life first spouses. For me, the best example of politically-involved partners of national leaders are US First Ladies.

But if you have decided to try, there are a few questions one could explore and experiment (in no particular order):

> How is the relationship between the leader character and the partner character at the moment? Is it different from when it started?

> Is the relationship between the leader character and the partner character different when it comes to public image and private life?

> If the relationship started before the leader character's political career started, how has the relationship changed following it?

> If the relationship started after the leader character's political career started, how has the political career affected the relationship?

> Is the relationship between the leader character and the partner character a political union? (i.e. dynastic marriage, marriage of convenience, state-assigned partner for some dystopian reason)

> Are the political views of the leader character and the partner character aligned? If not, how do they resolve their differences?

> Is the partner character required to be present in social functions and important ceremonies of the nation? Do they/are they allowed to have their own career outside politics?

> How is the partner character treated/seen by the media and the people?

The Leader and the People

Now, we are back in politics. The relationship between a leader character and their people is crucial for their political longetivity because it goes without saying that if the people start not liking their leader anymore, bad things usually happen -- protests, riots, civil wars, revolutions, or even flame wars on Twitter. However, "the people" is rarely a unified, singular unit -- it is composed of a lot of, uhh, people, each with individual opinions. Still, you can usually narrow it down to factions, political parties, and others.

Sometimes, a leader may try to alter their people's views on them -- propaganda, if you will. Sometimes, they are liked because they are good, or simply tolerated because they have done nothing too wrong.

Foreign Relations

Just in case your nation has other nations sharing the same canon or region... personal relationships between leaders can affect the tone of diplomacy between their respective nations although not necessarily entirely -- depending on how much power the leader has on the nation's foreign policies as well as how well they can divide between personal relationship and national interests.

The United Federation of Zitravgrad