I know people interview their characters to find out details about them, and in many ways these interviews can provide information that adds flavour to the character, but, in my humble opinion, they do not add depth. This post takes a look at that.
So what kind of questions do they recommend you ask?
What is your character’s name? Does the character have a nickname?
What is your characters hair color? Eye color?
Where does your character go when he’s angry?
What is her biggest fear? Who has she told this to? Who would she never tell this to? Why?
Does she have a secret?
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
What is your current state of mind?
What is your favorite occupation?
What is your most treasured possession?
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
What is your favorite journey?
What is your most marked characteristic?
When and where were you the happiest?
What is it that you most dislike?
What is your greatest fear?
What is your greatest extravagance?
Which living person do you most despise?
These sorts of questions are all fascinating and provide great details, but do they show real character?
I’m not so sure.
In an interview we like to present the best facets of ourselves possible, and we even exaggerate our good points if we think it will produce the result we want. What prevents our characters from doing exactly the same?
We could ask our character these questions and think we know them, then when we start to write we discover that, actually, we still know very little about them.
If you were asked all these questions can you say you would answer each one truthfully? Would your character?
If you had a character who was a compulsive liar, these questions would be no good at all. If you had a character whose opinion of themselves was vastly different to that of other characters, how does interviewing them help? It may reveal their opinion of themselves, but will it also reveal what they think deep down?
These questions might reveal what the character thinks they might do in certain situations, or what the character thinks they know, but how many of us know what we would do in any given situation until we are in that situation?
Most of these questions seem to be aimed at discovering the person/character rather than developing the character.
It might be a good idea to start with such a questionnaire to discover a character, but how do we then develop them? Or find out how their answers to these questions affect them in ‘life’?
There is only one way.
Put them in situations where they are forced to make a decision, for good or bad. Put them in situations that will test their courage, test their emotional responses, test their fears.
Even if these situations and scenes are not used in the final draft, you have learned something about your character you didn’t know before. They have new depth.
What do you think? Have character interviews helped you, and in what way?