Less than you think! (Probably).
You ever heard the expression less is more?
I always think back to this expression when I see these long questionnaires, “100 questions to get to know your oc!”, “the 50 essential facts you need to know about your character!”, “360 things to have clear about those ocs!”.
And I’m just like… what?
I’m not going to lie, they can be fun. I’ve done many for my role-playing characters. But as a writer… less really is more.
Here’s the thing: if you fill in those questions, you’re going to end up feeling like those answers are true and must be respected. Or, you’re going to be going back and forth changing them. And neither of these are ideal.
When I wrote the first draft of my book, I didn’t know the personality of any character other than my protagonist. I learnt who they were through that first draft.
After that first draft, I now knew the characters and could start my second draft knowing all I needed to know.
I went off and wrote a couple of AUs and short stories separate from that first book to learn a bit more and then used what I’d learnt to improve them slightly in future drafts.
I don’t know when the birthday of my characters or what their favourite food is.
I don’t know the favourite colour of most of the characters.
I don’t even know the sexuality of some of them.
These days people put this pressure on facts and more and more facts, but you can get to know your character as you write. If anything, this gives you so much more freedom! And this freedom will result in some of the best characterisation and backstories!
As long as they’re consistent, you don’t really need to know that much. And if those giant lists of facts you need to know scare you, rest assured, they’re not necessary.
And if you enjoy them, then good on you! But keep an open mind, maybe don’t publish it unless you’re 100% certain that’s going to stay consistent!
And keep writing!