Interviewing your characters – what they say might surprise you

It isn’t the idea of a writer interviewing her characters that frightens most people; it’s the thought that somehow they might answer. They do answer. And sometimes I don’t like what they have to say, but I have learned that character interviews, like bios, are essential to understanding–and sometimes getting along with–the people who populate my imagination and stories.

To the average person, this sounds ridiculous; but to writers, dealing with imaginary peope who sometimes don’t get along is just another fun and challenging aspect of our job.

During my junior year at college I wrote a sci-fi political thriller with a story based on real life events. It was a cool, high-concept thriller. Think big budget summer blockbuster. I could visualize it…my only problem being, for whatever reason I couldn’t seem to “connect” with the protagonist, Riley. (I am still on an “R” streak when it comes to naming my protagonists, as they have all been given names starting with the letter R — but that’s another story).

I asked my professors for guidance, and after doing extra credit character development assignments, etc., I still did not feel like I knew Riley as well as I needed to in order to immerse myself in his story. With character development being my strong point, this irritated me terribly and thus, I was angry at Riley. My writing skills were suffering for it. If I couldn’t see the character and hear how he would speak, I couldn’t write the scenes convincingly. So I took him out of the story for the moment and wrote a scene as I would for a novel using full narratives rather than short action blocks of description as was required in the script. I let my protagonist, Ria, from The Roslin Effect, “interview” Riley. I know Ria’s personality inside out, and her fun, energetic personality worked well in contrast to his shyness. She asked him about his life, his story, his girlfriend, etc., and the scene went on and on; and with it, through a character I knew and loved, I began to feel as though I knew Riley as well.

I was working with one of my favorite professors, who is am amazing creative mind, and when I told her about the interview she congratulated me on the idea, and thought it could be a useful tool to other writers facing a similar dilemma with character development.

The interview doesn’t have to be a long scene; make it however long you like. Have fun with it. Where do your characters meet? What does the place look like? Has one of them been there before? Are they happy about it? Or not? Why? It’s amazing how much you can learn about them in one simple scene. Take it out of the context of your story and see how the characters react in new surroundings.

The doors to creativity are endless, and I encourage anyone suffering from writer’s block or just struggling with a character or scene to try this exercise.


4 responses to “Interviewing your characters – what they say might surprise you

  • darkjade68

    One of my Assistant Editors on My Journalist/Multiple Artist Contributing Site, Wrote a Piece about Interviewing your Characters I believe

    I’m not sure I’ve ever had Writers Block, but if I did, I’d Probably Employee this Method… It’s a Very Strong Method

    Nice Piece Jordan


  • realjordanscott

    Oh yeah? That’s awesome! I don’t know if it’s a popular exercise. My professors found it to be somewhat unorthodox at first, then loved it. One assignment I did have was to write a monologue from the protagonist’s perspective – very difficult but useful in the end.

    How could you have not had Writers Block?! I have it at least a couple of times a month, and it sucks. Sometimes it can last for weeks. I was on hiatus for about 4 months at one point because of it.

    • darkjade68

      I’m not sure, every since I was a really young boy, My Imagination has just flowed like a river… It’s just who I am… Putting Pen to Paper is where the Work is, actually doing it yah know…

      But coming up with it has never been an issue

      Star Wars the First Two Films were Extremely Inspirational and Instrumental as a Motivation for me, at least in Pursuing Film Making

      And I had an Immensely Imaginative, and Creatively Free Environment Growing up… It was mostly My Brother, My Mom and I… I have two older sisters, but they weren’t really around…

      Our Mom basically gave the Living Room to My Brother and I when we were growing up… And we’d Play, and Play, and Play in there… We’d Create Massively Elaborate Story Lines, be it with Stuffed Animals (Lol, when we were really young), and later and for years with “Action Figures”… We weren’t like most kids we grew up around, we weren’t all that interested in “Bang Bang You’re Dead” with action figures… We had a huge Action Figure Collection, and we’d line them all up on the floor, like 100 of them… And roll a 6 sided die for each Character, and they’d go to that Fort, lol… 6 Teams, Randomly determined by the toss of a Die… This Created a lot of Inspiration, as we never knew which characters would be with which characters…

      We’d call these “Wars”, but in truth, many of the Story Lines ended in Peace…

      Anyway, maybe more than you want to know, but this Creative Freedom, Coupled by Inspiration from Films like Star Wars, Coupled with having a Brother that I was closer to than a Twin (15 months apart), coupled with the fact that Creating is just who I am…

      Long answer for why I haven’t had Writers Block, lol


  • raynedepp

    Reblogged this on The Dark Shifter and commented:
    This article quite cool

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