Interviewing Your Characters: Getting Down to the Nitty GrittyHey, how’s your day going? My computer at work has been on the fritz, and my day has been hectic, but I’ve finally been able to carve out some time to post my blog. I’ll get to questions this evening, so if you post a comment, don’t think I’m ignoring you if you don’t hear back until tonight.
Enough rambling… Today’s topic: Interviewing Your Characters—Getting Down to the Nitty Gritty.
One of my favorite, and most successful, methods of getting to know my characters is to interview them. Especially if I’ve hit a rough patch in my manuscript, or if I get to a point where I feel my character and I aren’t communicating as well as we should. As we know, communication is the key to a good (or bad) relationship. If you’re not communicating with your characters, how can you tell their story?
Whenever I start to feel out of touch with my characters, there’s one tried and true method that works for me.
Interviewing/Talking with them.
There are two different tactics you can take: the serious, professional interview, complete with notepad and pen or the casual, “two friends” talking approach.
I’ve sat down at the kitchen table, questions jotted down on a notepad, to talk to my hero. It says a lot when I ask a question and he looks away, choosing not to make eye contact with me. There have been times when I’m driving down the road, chatting with my heroine like two friends on a road trip. I’ve also sat next to my hero, watching the waves rush the South Carolina shore as we talk about why we may have hit a wall in his story.
The key word here is “why”.
In order to bring your characters to life for the reader, you have to know your characters to the depths of their soul. A wise friend once told me that we must peel back the layers to get to the juicy part of what makes my hero unique. Talking to my characters (interviewing them) helps me get to the core of what makes them tick.
I’ll ask questions like:
Why is my hero behaving in a certain way? What are his dreams? Why are those dreams so important to him? Why does he like/dislike a certain person, or job, color, or food, etc. Why is he balking at the task I’ve placed before him? Why does he get so frustrated when the heroine does something?
I may pop open a soda, envisioning my heroine doing the same. Is it a diet soda? If yes, is she watching her weight? Is she diabetic? If it’s a beer, that may say something completely different about her. And I’d consider what that may be.
As funny as this may sound… yes, the first time I tried this while driving to the grocery store, I admit that I felt a little weird talking to an empty passenger seat… it works. Well, it works for me.
My characters are people. Living breathing people. At least, in my eyes and heart they are. And hopefully for my readers, too.
So, sit down and have drink with your characters tonight. Imagine your heroine sitting on your kitchen stool while you wash your dishes. Bummer that she can’t wash them for you, huh? Invite your hero for a walk around your neighborhood, or for a chat by the fire.
You’ll be surprised how easy the conversation will come to you. And by how much your character will wind up sharing. Let me know how it goes. I’ll check back to see your results.