I’ve heard a bit of jibber-jabber lately about interviewing your characters. Some people LOVE it. Others think it just gets them off on the wrong track and adds too many unneeded details to the story.
So which is it?
My feeling? Depends. (Don’t you just love an answer like that…)
But truly, I feel it depends on how you use it. Does knowing your character’s favorite ice cream flavor have a big impact on your book? Probably not—unless, of course, ice cream is an important feature in your story. Otherwise, that’s not a detail you have to work into your plot. But does knowing it in the back of your mind enhance how your character comes across on the page?
It just might.
I recently gave a webinar for SCBWI with author, Janine DeTillio Cammarata, on Using Journaling and Interviewing Techniques to Enhance Your Craft. During the session, we discussed various journaling techniques and how they can be useful for your writing in general, but also in getting to know your characters so you can make them leap off the page. I also shared how my background writing feature profile stories on real-life people has played a role in my creative writing as well. The techniques I use to gain the information I need to write those profiles have woven their way into my character development. The more I slow down and take the time to use them, the better my characters become. I have found that learning to ask your characters the RIGHT questions can enhance a story in a variety of ways.
Pretend you’re writing a magazine profile on your MC. What would you ask them? How would you find out their story? Then, sit down and do it! Create an interview for your character and see what comes out. The answers may surprise you!
It’s also fun to interview other characters about your MC. What secrets do they have? How do they really feel about your MC? What character quirks come out?
This is a side-writing exercise. It is not something that needs to be in the story. It’s an exercise to help you flesh out your characters (don’t forget those villains, too!). The more that you know your character and their backgrounds and motivations, the more your reader will connect with your MC and their story. A fun plot is great, but if we don’t care about the characters and connect with them on an emotional level, an exciting plot will turn into a forgettable story—not one that readers will want to experience over and over again.
Give it a try—it can’t hurt! Take a look at the summary from the workshop here to get you started. See what you come up with, then let me know how it goes!
Photo Credit: Photo by Susan Weber from UnSplash