When I sit down to begin a novel I am writing, I often feel as though I truly know my hero/heroine inside and out; the truth is, there is often more to know. Different people have their own tips and techniques they use for character development, but aside from day dreaming of events that will never be written, I like to interview my character.
The interview is best used for main and supporting characters, but it can also be useful for any character you may feel as though is not shining through in your work. Part of the benefits participants in the NaNoWriMo competition is access to blogs, chats, and tips from other successful writers. My favorite help guide shared by the Nano community is this Character Questionnaire.
In my experience, I find going into as much detail as possible is best. One of the best benefits, my opinion, of the interview is when you find yourself suffering from Writer’s Block. I understand this technique is not always applicable, but imagine you have your hero and your “villain” stuck in a situation in which they must work together, but you see know way for it to happen. Looking back at the interviews, perhaps at a favorite memory, you may notice something that could bring your characters closer together, if only for a scene or two.
I have a character in my story (Elixia) who has a short temper with my MC, and while he is meant to be the love interest, it took interviewing for me to understand why his temper had become short. For me, my characters are as real as anyone walking down the street, so I often imagine interviews with my characters. What I learned about my character was he had a wife once and his wife was led away in her sleep and murdered before him. My character if afraid of loving someone else because he fears losing her, being unable to protect her, and also he was afraid of being unloyal to the memory of his wife.
You see where I listed the three reasons my character had a short temper, in a questionnaire, I could leave it with those answers. The point of an interview is to dig deep. So now I would try to answer the questions “Why do you think you will lose her”, “How do you think you would respond if you did lose her? “Why do you feel you must protect her?” “From what do you think she must be protected?” “Why do you think loving someone else would make you unloyal to your deceased wife” etc… I can continue to find question after question, and the more specific my questions become, the more I can understand how my character has become that way and what my MC can do to turn him around. This interview can also provide me with dialogue if I feel I need more to say.
There is one more thing I want to share about interviews and your story. In any good story the main character evolves along the way, so my suggestion would be to re-interview throughout the story. A questionnaire is a great starting point, because it can show you who all of your characters are, but the interview will help you to truly know them.
Camp NaNoWriMo is currently running during the month of April, but another will start in July. If you want to practice setting a writing goal and writing each day, NaNos can help keep you accountable and reach other writers.
Thoughts or opinions? Share below, let’s discuss!