Character development is probably my favorite part of the novel writing experience and for good reason: it’s where you get to meet your creations through an intimate experience of question and discovery.
When I first started writing novels, I wasn’t sure how to get to know my characters; in fact, I didn’t even bother. I would just start writing and wait to see what interesting information would fall out of the woodwork.
But then I learned about character interviews and how beneficial it is to know all of your character’s nitty, gritty details when it comes to writing them full-bodied.
Through interview sessions, I would take a character I knew next to nothing about and fill in the gaps of their backstory, motivations, inspirations, style, and voice.
I end up with a collection of often never-used information that serves as a personal collage for each character, something I can reference when I need a quick reminder of how that character thinks, speaks and acts.
Today, as I still struggle to find the words to push out a rough draft, I decided to spend another day exploring my characters.
You can never explore too much, yes?
And, in the process, I’m learning about rather large gaps and conflicting stimuli that I’ve inserted into my storyline; gaps and stimuli that may need to be justified or removed to make my story flow smoothly.
Are you for questionnaires?
If you haven’t already, go download the Character Interview Questionnaires so you can see what kind of questions I ask my characters.
I conduct both the Gotham Writer’s Workshop and the Marcel Proust questionnaires before getting to my own, more organic style of questioning where I let the conversation take it’s own twists based on whatever the character seems to want to talk about.
How do I do that?
By being spontaneous, of course!
I start off by asking my character:
“What is your full name and do you go by any nicknames?”
From there, the conversation usually takes the route of:
“Why that nickname?”
I allow the conversation to continue as far as I can until I’ve inevitably run out of questions.
QUICK TIP: treat your character as if they re someone in real life who you are actually interviewing. That makes it easier to anticipate authentic responses.