First, I would like to apologize for being so late to post this. I ended up being very busy during the latter half of last week and my time ended up being filled unexpectedly both yesterday and today. Part of that was poor planning on my part, sorry, but part of that was life in general. Okay, enough excuses.
Today I was talking to my brother, also an aspiring author, and he admitted that he suddenly realized that he had four characters in his book that were essentially the same. He hadn’t taken the time to get to know them. Being a cool older sister, and one who had read far, far too many writing books, I suggested an exercise that I had gotten from one or more writing books that had worked for me a few times. Interview your characters.
The source I remember best, and I’m not sure who it was (I’ll edit in when I find it again), said to be honest with your characters, be polite, and be willing to answer their questions too. In addition, some characters may be so mad at you for messing up their lives that they don’t want to talk to you.
After recommending this exercise, my brother and I made a list of interview questions that we could ask characters. They were general enough that we could use them for any book we were working on and ranged from shallow questions like favorite color or animal to deeper questions like “Would you get into a fight you knew you couldn’t win, and if so, under what circumstances?” or “I would rather die than…” We included hopes, dreams, fears, regrets, triumphs, and more. One of my favorites was “What’s in your pockets?” My sister, a non-writer, thought that one weird until I explained. It wasn’t asking for a literal list of a literal pocket. It’s what does that character make sure to carry around with him or her on a regular basis. It’s also a good riddle if you’re ever up against Gollum.
Some of our questions were basic get to know you type questions, some were deeper. Don’t forget that every question can be enriched by adding ‘Why?’. You may not wish to use those kinds of questions at all. In fact, I encourage you to come up with your own. I seriously doubt this will work every time on every character, but I think you may be pleasantly surprised with what you came up with.
I once asked myself to come up with one thing I didn’t know about a character in the story I was working on at the time. What popped into my head absolutely shocked me and became a major plot point for the sequel. (Sorry, I can’t tell you what it is. It’s not written yet.)
Give it a try. Just keep your mind open.
In other news Bethany’s Bliss has been posted in Indian SF. Feel free to check it out.