Sunday, March 18, 2018

Interviewing Characters

This is everyone's favorite part of the writing process, right? You sit your stubborn characters down and try to ask them why they refuse to make up, always wear bunny slippers, why they refuse to give you their name, etc. In the last case, I usually resort to saying something like: "Tell me your real name or you'll be stuck with 'Zupid Gruppi'!"

There are so many ways to interview a character. For Major/Main characters, I might start with a detailed interview (using questions like these or these), or I might not get to asking them much until I'm halfway done with the first draft (in which case I just keep asking "Why this?" until I get somewhere). If I'm lucky, I'll spot the character I need while browsing enneagrams, or I'll use a Myers-Briggs personality test and go from there.
For other characters, though, going through all the questions about daily living are...tedious, nigh on useless. Most of the time. Every so often one of the questions along the lines of "name of high-school sweetheart" becomes relevant, then I go back and fill it out.
Minor/Side characters can be well fleshed out using an abbreviated questionnaire like this or this. Sometimes all that's needed is a good physical description.

I thought I'd share some snippets of my character interviews I did while writing Trouble in Bookland. These are mostly from early drafts (I'll be making a post about that in the near-ish future). Ethan's (he's the antagonist) interview is more current, when I was hitting a block at about the halfway point. So some spoilers for Trouble in Bookland in that one. Highlight if you wish to view. Linda (the protagonist) is the other interviewee.
Italics are characters, bold is me.


Linda (age 8-10, early draft):

So right now you’re living with Johan, who is your new father’s son, and your mom?


How do you like it?

*crumples tissues and throws them aside* It’s not home. At home, we all used to laugh and live together. Johan and I do that sometimes. But mom doesn’t like talking about where we used to live, what dad used to be like, or Ethan.

What about your new dad? What’s he like?

*shrugs* I don’t like him very much, because the only time I see him much is when he and Johan are talking. He doesn’t like that Johan’s a Writer and keeps telling him to live in Reality. It doesn’t make sense…

So you like Johan a lot?

Yuh-huh. It’s just…sometimes he makes me forget Ethan. I don’t want to forget Ethan. *scrunches self into couch cushions*

That’s when you get angry with him?


Do you like yourself?

I…I guess so? *puzzled look*

There’s nothing you regret doing, want to do that you’re ashamed of, anything?

*looks even more confused* Uh-um…no?

Well, then what’s your outlook on life? Are you pessimistic, optimistic, do you feel that most people you meet are honest, or lying?

*frowns and grips head* What’s that supposed to mean?

Uh…(oh, yeah, pre-teen character. Some things on my questionnaire aren't relevant.) Change of question. What’s your life like?

*shrugs, making a face* I wake up, I eat, I go to school, I come home, I eat, I do homework, I play with Johan until mom or dad comes home and tells us to stop making so much noise. And I write until my brains short out.

Do you have any friends?

*relaxes a bit* Nope. *pause* Can I ask you something?

Sure, shoot.

Are you an Author?

*chuckles* Sort of, yeah.

Okay. ‘Cuz this was starting to feel like a Character interview.



Why’d you mess things up in Bookland? How do you feel now that Linda has ownership of your world? Something isn't sitting right...

*gives look* Becaaaaauuuuuuuse that was my plan. To mess things up and start deteriorating the Patchwork. You feeling okay?

Meh, just trying to figure things out. Scatterbrain doesn’t help. Hey, why do you care how I'm feeling?

Maybe, just maybe, I’m a human being with concern for others.


Yeah, I know. *grins again* To answer your other question…happy. The world’ll survive, and she’ll be stretching her creative muscles.

Huh. Okay, then. What went wrong, what went wrong…

Something with Fourth-wall awareness, obviously.

Obviously. Let’s see…

Why don’t you just follow along with Linda and see where she heads? *chuckle*

Oh dear.

I hope you enjoyed this. Any questions for any characters in TiB? Outside the story, I've found that most of them are fourth-wall aware, so outlandish and/or crossover questions will most likely be answered.
Thanks for reading!