After all the hard work you’ve put into creating such interesting characters, how much do you actually know about them?
What are their favorite phrases?
What do they like to eat for dinner?
When does their morning wake-up routine look like?
Writing characters that have fundamental mannerisms and hidden motives and fascinating quirks that follow the boundaries you’ve set for their role in your plot is all a matter of knowing those characters as intimately as possible.
The more you know about your characters, the more rationalized and mysterious their emotions and actions will be when you hunker down in the Writer’s Trench.
This is something that took me a few months to figure out. I figured I would “discover” my characters as I wrote; which I did, but that also left me having to re-write a ton of content because I’d gotten it wrong the first time through up until I realized that’s how my character would act or respond.
So save yourself the wasted time, exhausting energy, and gnawing frustrations, and interview your characters until they’re genuine.
Below, are my two favorite questionnaire’s that I use when interviewing my characters.
For each one, I treat myself like their confidante; almost as if they’ve committed murder (some of them absolutely have) and I’m the only person witch whom they trust to share their secrets.
The first is called the Proust Questionnaire and it’s named so after the early 1900’s novelist, Marcel Proust, who popularized the series of questions as a parlor game during his time (which, yes please).
The second, is a series of questions hailing from a book written by New York City’s Gotham Writer’s Workshop, called Writing Fiction, which you can purchase here.
Click on each image to download the word document and start questioning your characters until you know them more intimately than you know your own socks.
THE PROUST QUESTIONNAIRE
THE GOTHAM QUESTIONNAIRE
I use each of these questionnaires for all of my characters. Nowadays, I use the questionnaire’s well before I get down into the Writer’s Trench, but sometimes I find myself coming back to them (typically for supporting characters) once I’m waist deep in the plot.
Use these questionnaires to get a deeper understanding of who your characters are and why they act the way they do.
Once you’ve conducted an interview in the stylings of Mr. Proust and the Gotham Writer’s Workshop, take a stab at the freestyling interview method of yours truly and see how you fare!
To start, choose one of your characters and ask them to:
Please state your name and tell me a little about yourself for the record.
Respond from your character’s viewpoint as best as you can and from there, let the interview play out organically with you asking whatever questions seem to surge forth.
Leave a comment below to share what gems you’ve uncovered about your characters!