Character Interviewing 101

One of my favoritest parts of the pre-planning process are the Character Interviews! I really get to know my awesome creations, and here, during the interview process, is where they really come to life for me and take on little quirks and personalities of their own. ^_^

I started doing this a few years after working on a first draft for a year (the same draft!) and ended up not even liking my MC when I was done. I had a hard time figuring out what made her tick, and it was a big ole headache. And sad. Because after a couple of editing rounds, I realized I needed a new MC, so I had to scrap ALL that hard work. Wanting to avoid this in the future, I decided to try and interview my next MC and see if that would help any. (When it comes to making a story better, we’ll try anything at least once anyway, am I right?) And while I was at it, I decided to interview anyone else with a major role in the story.

And dudes! It was like someone had sprinkled fairy dust on my story. Characters started coming to life and popping off the page. I could (almost) literally see the fire in their eyes when I said their names. It was amazing. If you have never sat down and opened up a dialogue with your characters, I highly recommend it. It is made of gold wrapped in awesome.

There are a lot of ways to interview your characters. Most of them stiff as all get out. They make these wondrously long lists of questions you can ask your characters to get to know them like, what’s your favorite color? do you have any pets? what is your view on war? But I feel like those questions are way too impersonal, and they never helped me get to know anyone better. Not the way I want to know them. Because I want to be in their heads where the fun is. Once I’m in their heads, I’ll know if they have pet and what their favorite color is, and all that other stuff. Because if any of that stuff is important, they will let you know. And if you know them that well, you can ask them something like, “what’s your view on politics” or “under what circumstances would you kill your best friend” in the car on the way to the grocery store, and they can tell you just like that. snaps fingers (Become friends with a tape recorder though, people. Let’s not try and jot down notes at the same time. You know what I’m talking about. We’ve all done it.) You can spring stuff on your characters at anytime now, because now, you have their ear. Anything you want to know about them, you only need to ask. Characters really like to talk and be listened to. They’re little egomaniacs. ^_^

I wouldn’t just interview the MC though. Never. Ever. If you really want to be in their skin, so to speak, you have to interview their friends. Because characters can’t always see the whole picture. And sometimes they lie. That’s another tangent though.

The Interview Process
Most times I just sit people down and ask them to tell them anything about themselves that they want me to know. The only problem with this method is that I may not get the information I need for the actual story. Also, some people have the tendency to talk my ear off. This can be fun, and I rarely need to go back and reread interviews since I tend to remember the important stuff, but just in case, I try to keep people’s interviews down to a page or less. I handwrite this stuff, and there is no search and find option in my composition book.

Basic Interview Questions
(I don’t always physically write the question down, though you can do whatever you want. I just use these to guide the conversation so I make sure I have what I need to start writing.)

–What do you do all day?

–How do you feel about (insert name of parent/sibling/best friend/crush/boyfriend/girlfriend/neighbor/etc – i.e. whoever is most important to the character and/or the plot of the story – HERE)?

–Why are you after (the holy grail/the MC/your best friend’s boyfriend/or whatever it is they’re after)?

–Do you like (school/your job/volunteer work/the government/the hero/the heroine/the villain/rainstorms/whatever–etc)? Why or why not?

–What do you want more than anything in the whole entire world?

And that’s really all I do. You may be thinking, how can I achieve magic with a one page interview and a handful of questions? I say, “Hey, it’s worth a try, yes?” ^_^

5 Responses to Character Interviewing 101

  1. I know your questions are good one because they make me want to write down the answers! 🙂

    You’re right about generic questions. I don’t like sharing common things like favorite color and favorite food. I want to be able to say why and how, they lead to longer and more in-depth answers.

    I’m going to try this with my characters. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Absolutely! One word answers are boring, boring. Asking more in-depth things really makes them feel special. Which they are, of course. ^_^

      I’m so excited that you’re going to try it! I know you’ll have a bunch of fun! 🙂

Hi! ^_^