The characters in your books are the heart and soul of your story. As a writer you need spend time on them or your book won’t have the same impact. There are plenty of novels out there where the characters are used as fleshy footballs, kicked around by the dominant plot. But I’m not going to beat around the bush – good writers create good characters. Think about all the books you’ve read and what makes your favourite ones really stick with you. I’ll bet you anything it’s because of one or several of the characters.
So if you want to write a book that your reader will read over and over you need real, fully-formed characters. And one of the best ways to get into their shoes, is to invite them in for a cup of tea and a chat.
Always build your characters first
Before we get to that part though, I think it’s important to say that characters should really come first. That’s not to say your plot won’t be right there too. But whatever the idea or outline you have in your mind, I can guarantee you that it’ll work much better with defined characters. That’s true whether you’re a plotter or a pantser. In fact, it’s probably especially important if you’re a panster as you’ll need to know your little darlings inside out to guide your story.
And whilst there are many ways to do this, interviewing them (tea optional) is a really great way to get inside their metaphorical heads.
How to interview your characters
Here’s a 3 step plan to help you get the most out of interviewing your characters.
1) Create your questions
There are plenty of resources out there to help you craft an interesting spread of queries to ask your characters. You can start with basics like name, age, where they live, etc. But then you’ll need to think more creatively to get those small yet important details out. Here are some examples to get you started:
- What three things would you take to a desert island?
- What’s your earliest memory?
- What’s your morning routine?
- How would you describe yourself to a blind person?
- How did you decide what you wanted to do in life?
- What were your favourite things to do as a child?
- Who’s your idol?
- What’s on your nightstand?
- What’s your earliest memory?
2) Get in the mood
Now, you don’t have to jump from one seat to the other switching between the character and the interviewer (unless you want to of course). No, you just need a template of questions, your character outlines and some time. If it helps to wear certain clothes, or listen to some music to get into the right headspace then do it. You’ll really need to crank your imagination up to eleven as you write the answers to each question as your character would.
3) Go beyond the answers
Try to think outside of the questions. Imagine the characters is actually being interviewed. Why would that happen to them in particular? Where the interview would take place? Picture what each character would wear (even if the interview isn’t in person). Would certain characters refuse to answer some questions? Would they ask questions back? All of these facets go towards making your characters more real.
What do you think? Have you tried interviewing your characters? Please share your thoughts in the comments!