Canon Character Analysis Questions


Being able to understand other people's characters is incredibly useful. It helps you portray them more accurately in fanfic, and it helps you develop a better sense of how other people in general might think and feel so you can develop better characters of your own. Plus, sometimes it's just fun! Here's a list of questions to ask yourself when analyzing any canon character.



Overall behavior

  • How does this character behave and talk when things are going smoothly? What constitutes "going smoothly" for this character? Is there anything that other people might see as a sign of normality or harmony that this character doesn't?
  • How does this character behave and talk when things go off-kilter? What constitutes "going off-kilter" for this character? Is there anything that other people might consider to be going off-kilter that this character doesn't?
  • How does this character behave and talk when anxious or scared? What kinds of things make this character anxious or scared? Do you see anything that you might expect would frighten this character, but actually doesn't?
  • How does this character behave and talk when sad? What kinds of things make this character sad? Do you see anything that you might expect could make this character sad, but doesn't?
  • How does this character behave and talk when trying to hide or lie about something? How does it differ from how the character behaves and talks otherwise? What kinds of things does the character tend to try to hide or lie about? Is there anything you might expect this character to lie about, but is actually completely honest about it?
  • How does this character behave and talk when excited or playful? What all gets this character into an excited or playful mood? Is there anything that might get other people excited or playful, but has no real impact on this character?
  • How does this character behave and talk when angry or aggressive? What all puts this character into an angry or aggressive mood? Is there anything that you might expect this character to get mad at, or that might get other people mad, that this character actually isn't bothered by?
  • How does this character behave and talk when feeling disgusted or affronted? What all makes the character feel disgusted and affronted? Is there anything that you might assume would make this character feel disgusted or affronted, but actually doesn't?
  • How does this character behave and talk when curious or interested in something? What kinds of things does this character take interest in and get curious about? Is there anything you might think would pique this character's interest, but actually doesn't?
  • How does this character behave and talk when bored and disinterested? What kinds of things does this character find dull and boring? Is there anything you might think this character wouldn't be interested in, that this character is actually very interested in?
  • How does this character behave and talk when confused or baffled? What kind of things does this character get confused or baffled over? Is there anything you might think this character would find confusing or baffling, but actually doesn't?
  • Why does this character behave in all these ways? If you can't be sure, what are a few probable reasons, and which seem the most likely in context?
  • Does it seem most likely that any given behavioral pattern or characteristic the character exhibits comes from A: an inherent personality trait, B: a habit developed in response to environmental or societal pressures, C: something learned or adopted from one or more person around, or D: some mix of the above? Why does it seem that way?
  • How many of your guesses are based on why you personally might do or say these things? If so, are you factoring in any differences between your respective ages, genders, upbringings, lifestyle, social environments, cultural expectations, life experiences, opinions, and habits?
  • Can you think of anything in canon that would disprove your guesses or at least call them into question?

Things the character says

  • Do the character's claims line up with how things in the setting actually are? Do you see any corroborating evidence that what the character says is accurate? Do we only have this character's word? Or do you see that reality is actually very different?
  • If there is neither any corroborating nor discrediting evidence shown, how much should we honestly trust what the character is saying? Given the circumstances and what we know about the character so far, is it highly likely that this information is accurate? Or is there a reasonable chance that this information is partially or completely false?
  • If there are good reasons to doubt this information, or if this information is outright shown to be false, what reasons are there to think that the character was being deliberately deceitful versus being misinformed or drawing an incorrect conclusion? Or is it possible that the character was doing neither, and was simply speculating or guessing? Which option seems most likely given the circumstances?
  • If there is reason to believe that the character was being deliberately untruthful, what were the motives? Was this character perhaps lashing out in anger or fear? Just meant to cause annoyance or distress? Trying to avoid looking ignorant? Perhaps trying to boost morale or keep people from panicking?

Things that the character does

  • Do the character's self-proclaimed personality traits, motives, etc. line up with what the character actually does? Or does the character claim to be one kind of person but behave like another, or claim to be after one thing but go after something else? Is it more likely that the character is lying, or is just self-deluded?
  • How does the character behave on an ordinary day? How does this differ from days where something unusual happens?
  • If you never got to see the character under ordinary circumstances, are you accounting for the fact that what you see might not be the character's baseline behavior, and that unusual or extreme circumstances might be driving the character to behave in an unusual or extreme way?
  • Whenever the character has a strong reaction of any kind, or behaves in a manner that might seem uncharacteristic, what's going on? What is happening right now that wasn't happening before, or that doesn't ordinarily happen to the character? Are they perhaps in a place they aren't in ordinarily, or haven't been in before?
  • How does this character behave in the presence of real or perceived danger? Assuming the character can keep a clear head, who or what tends to go on priority to save or protect, and in which order? If the character has different priorities at different times, how do the circumstances differ?
  • Does this character behave differently around different people? If so, what makes these people different from each other? How exactly does this character treat them all differently? What might the reasons for that be?
  • How much evidence is there that this character really loves any given food, hobby, fashion style etc., as opposed to simply finding it sufficiently acceptable and pleasant?
  • How does the character's actual behavior compare to your various assumptions and guesses about the character?

Reasonable inferences

  • Given this character's age, lifestyle, gender or perceived gender, career, interests, hobbies, culture, social environment, life experiences, etc., what is it reasonable to assume that this character has seen, experienced, learned, or at least heard about?
  • Conversely, what would the character likely not be very familiar or experienced with based on the above factors?
  • Is this character supposed to be good at anything? If so, what kind of skills and knowledge would this character need in order to be this good at it? What kind of education and training would this character have needed to receive?
  • What kind of behavioral standards would the character need to be able to meet in order to avoid getting into serious trouble before now? What kind of misbehavior or recklessness would the character need to have avoided in order to last this long without being fired, defeated, imprisoned, killed, etc.?

Character development

  • How do the character's views and attitudes shift throughout the story? What prompts these changes?
  • What has the character learned or decided by the end? How is the character a different person now?
  • How might these changes affect future actions and choices the character makes?

See also:

Telling Story Canon From Personal Bias, Erroneous Memories, & Fanwank
Tips For Writing & Roleplaying Canon Characters Better
How To Write & Roleplay Characters Who Are Different From You (Or, How To Stop Writing Self-Inserts!)
Simple Tips To Put Yourself In The Shoes Of Characters Who Aren't You
How To Exercise & Strengthen Your Empathy
How To Sharpen Your Intuition



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