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The Character Interview as a Writing Tool

Updated on March 25, 2014
DonnaCSmith profile image

Donna Campbell Smith is a published author, freelance writer, and photographer. She also specializes in horses.

 

When writing a novel it is important to know your characters, and it makes life easier to get to know them early in your writing. There may be things in your character's past that you will not write in your book, but will still influence how the story plays out. One way to glean this information is to interview your characters and ask them some questions about their childhood, events or people who made an impact on their lives and their present circumstances.

Ask all your characters these questions and let them answer in first person. Free write what comes to mind without self-editing. You can add questions of your own. This will help your story line develop and give voice to your characters. Keep these interviews in a file so you can refer to them later as your story evolves.

Character Interview Questions

  1. What do you do for a living?
  2. Are any other people living with you? Who are they?
  3. Tell me about your parents. How well do/did you get along with them?
  4. What was your birth order? How many siblings did you have? Older? Younger?
  5. Who else was in your family while you were growing up? How did you get along with them?
  6. What were three things you liked to do when you were a child?
  7. What were you afraid of when you were a child?
  8. How did you respond to the physiological and psychological changes in your life as a teenager?
  9. What makes you happy now?
  10. What is your greatest fear?
  11. What would you change about yourself if you could?
  12. What is it that you have never told anyone?
  13. What do you want? (This is the key to your story!)

Can you think of other questions you want to ask your characters? Share them with us in the comments box.

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    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 

      4 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Very useful. I've done this quite a bit, but there are always other effective tools to use. Thanks for this hub that added to my toolbox! ;-)

    • profile image

      tabby 

      6 years ago

      try more questions you think someone whould ask you if they where interviewing you that's all i can say lol :)

    • profile image

      jennifer 

      7 years ago

      nice

    • profile image

      Lynncar 

      8 years ago

      I like to invite my characters over for a pre-production lunch. We have some pizza and beer and let everyone be themselves and what they think of the story. They may have some good suggestions. Of course, the characters have to act in character. I may ask them questions and see how they react to each other. For instance, "If Joan were to walk up and slap you, Mary in the face, what would you do?" or "If Maury gave your girlfriend a pair of diamone earrings, how would you react?" Then, after they've had a few brews, I'd leave the room and spy on them from a hidden camera to see how they "really" get along. This way I can see how my trouble makers operate, see who the quiet ones are, who the funny ones are, who leads the conversation, who tries to smooth the feathers if it starts to get out of hand. etc.

    • profile image

      Eskarina 

      8 years ago

      Very interesting how one can learn about their character simply by how the question is phrased, I found out from this that one of my characters doesn't have a clue what 'Psychological' means.

    • profile image

      8 years ago

      Possible questions to ask:

      What are your hobbies and interests?

      What motivates you?

      Of what are you proudest?

      What is your most embarrassing memory?

      What was your first date like?

      How did you meet the person of your dreams?

    • Xaquizzle profile image

      Xaquizzle 

      8 years ago from California

      Amazing hub! Very helpful. :)

    • profile image

      Ellie 

      10 years ago

      I love the interview concept and it is especially useful when writing a play. The characters almost - at least it's my experience - almost talk back to you to tell you what to write. Great idea - and suggestion.

    • DonnaCSmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Donna Campbell Smith 

      10 years ago from Central North Carolina

      LOL, sure!

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      10 years ago from California Gold Country

      Can I be one of your characters? I like pizza and beer.

    • DonnaCSmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Donna Campbell Smith 

      10 years ago from Central North Carolina

      Thank you, Sally. I am going to add those questions to my own notes. And yes, I think it really helps get the story going to explore the characters. As one of my writer friends likes to say, "Take them out for a pizza and some beer and hear what they have to say."

    • Sally's Trove profile image

      Sherri 

      10 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      Donna, I'd like to add: Who are your best friends? Who were your best friends in the past, and why aren't they your best friends today?

      I think I could add many more, because this process of discovery you map out develops the character as a tangible person not only in your mind but in the mind of the eventual reader.

      The character interview questions are also an excellent exercise in *demolishing* writer's block. Just spend a few moments on a character while guided by your questions, and constipated writing can take off like a rocket. (No, I was not going for a more logical metaphor here!)

      Excellent advice.

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