Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Interviewing Your Characters

I’ve blogged about the importance of knowing your characters before. Non-writers laugh at us sometimes when we speak of our characters like he or she is our friend or enemy. But this is how it should be. We should know our characters well, very well. That’s not to say that a character won’t sometimes do something that will surprise us, but when that happens it really shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to us, because we know him so well, right?

As I’ve said before, I’m a fan of interviewing my characters. Sometimes it’s very helpful. Ever see a politician or an actor get tripped up on a question? Makes you wonder about them, right? Interviewing your characters is a great way to keep him from getting tripped up within the plot of your story. It will keep him from behaving out of character, which is totally different than doing something surprising. And it will keep you secure in who this guy is that you have created.

I love the television show, Inside The Actor’s Studio with James Lipton. At the end of each interview, he has his guest answer the questionnaire made famous by French television personality, Bernard Pivot. Perhaps these questions aren’t for you. No biggie. Make up your own. I have another set I ask my character that help delve deep enough to really draw out my character’s personality.

The questions below are pretty light, but I think they help firm of the edges of a three dimensional character.

I’ve answered the questions like my mc Sayra from the novel I’m currently querying. Hopefully it will tell you something about her without a long drawn out summary.

1. What is your favorite word? Vrrroooom!
2. What is your least favorite word? Murder
3. What turns you on? Working on my car
4. What turns you off? Undeserved Entitlement
5. What sound or noise do you love? The purring engine of my 67 Mustang.
6. What sound or noise do you hate? Girls giggling. Ugh.
7. What is your favorite curse word? Shit.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? I don’t have a profession, but I’d probably like to be a mechanic.
9. What profession would you not like to do? Anything that would require me to wear makeup and nail polish on a daily basis.
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? I gave you these psychic dreams so you can make a difference in the world.

Since I write YA, I also add:

11. What do you want to achieve by the time you graduate, turn eighteen, return from summer break…etc.? Whatever the setting is for your novel will help to fill in that question.
I hope to have my father embrace my gift, gain better control over my psychic dreams, and use my visions to help people. Oh and maybe get drag racing legalized in Monterey California.

Take some time out and set up and interview. Use these light-hearted questions or dig deeper and see if it helps round out your characters!


Tere Kirkland said...

I love this idea for getting to know your characters, especially YA characters. You can think you know them inside and out, but there are plenty of things you never even thought of about them, I'm sure.

And in YA, the characters more often than not undergo some sort of change, so it's good to know how they'll stay the same.

Karen Denise said...

It really is fun to interview characters and you're right, YA characters are always on the cusp of something. Sometimes it makes writing them difficult if they're too scattered so having them answer questions can keep them consistant in their inconsistencies-lol.

Jai Joshi said...

I love Inside the Actor's Studio too and that questionnaire at the end always gives some insight into the guest's inner workings.

I do a character profile for all my characters. Answers a lot of vital questions I have for them and it definitely helps me understand them.