Thursday, November 5, 2009

Why You Should Interview Your Characters


In yesterday's blog post, I had a little sit-down with Anthony, one of my main characters, who has been giving me a bit of difficulty. You see, he wasn't all that thrilled with me because I've yet to introduce him in the new YA magical realism novel I'm working on. And frankly, I was getting a bit impatient to meet him myself. So to resolve both of our anxieties, I thought it best to actually talk to him (and the cheeky bugger had just flipped me the bird, so I had to take him to task). Please review that little "interview" before finishing this post.

Alright, now that you've seen how a character interview can work, let me just tell you that I found this particular chat with Anthony immensely satisfying. Moreover, I learned a lot from it. In fact, I think ALL authors should take a little time to interview their main characters. Why? For a number of reasons. Here's what I took away from mine:

1. You gain a much better sense of who your characters are even before you meet them. Anthony isn't even in my book yet, but I now have a better understanding of how he speaks and the way he reacts. I had some sense of his backstory already, but when I sat down to talk to him, his words and his gestures flowed so freely that it was as if he already existed. I think his characterization (via dialogue and actions and even gestures) will come more easily now. Fact is, characters, when well defined, should take on a life of their own.

2. You can see if the characterization needs improvement. After rereading the interview with Anthony, I was able to see that a very clear personality was emerging with him. But if I had struggled with his dialogue or his gestures, it would have been an obvious signal to me that I needed to create a more distinct personality for him. Even static characters need to have a sense of identity. You don't want your characters to seem flat to the reader, and an interview helps you to establish a voice for them through an interaction with you.

3. If you interview your characters at different points in the narrative, you can get a sense of how they are changing throughout the story. A series of interviews can also help you to determine if your characterization is staying consistent. Even dynamic characters that change throughout the story should not lose the core of their identities--that voice that is so essentially theirs.

4. It's crazy fun to sit down with your own characters. As an author, you come to love your characters as your own children--and sometimes, if you're anything like me, you might even fall in love with one of them. I think it's natural to want to meet them, and this is one way to do it.

5. It's essential that we establish a relationship with our characters. And I don't mean that we must all cast aside our sane selves and gallivant in an imagined field of daisies with our leading men (unless you want to); but I do think that we must feel connected to our characters in order to portray them genuinely. How often have you read a book where the characters lack any depth whatsoever? I'm certain this results when authors have no sense of who their characters are because they haven't spent any time fleshing out their identities.


Now, given this long tirade on the benefits of interviewing fictional characters (of which I'm sure there are more), I thought it would be fun to begin a series on my blog of character interviews, not just with my own (though you'll likely be seeing more of those), but other authors' chats with their characters as well. Ooooo, getting excited just thinking about it--gives a whole new meaning to an interview with a vampire (eh hemm...Anthony is not a vampire, for the record, but maybe your mc is). So, if you're interested in guest posting an interview, let me know. Would love to have you.

Note: Photo is a still from Interview with a Vampire found on some Czech fan site.

12 comments:

  1. That's an awesome idea! You could come up with a set of questions that we can all ask our characters, that way we could really see the differences between them.

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  2. Oh, excellent idea. Will do! But feel free to have an unscripted chat with your characters as well (which is what my talk with Anthony really was). Either way, I'm now begging you to guest post!

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  3. Excellent post!

    I might sit my characters down a bit later and give them a good talking too - somehow I think it maybe the other way around.... :)

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  4. I'd love to guest post! I'm pretty sure my MC will have plenty to say about me.

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  5. I've honestly never thought about interviewing any of my characters. They never stick around long enough for me to ask 'em anything, since I've only written short stories and flash fiction till now.

    Perhaps when I start that novel (which I intend to do this month, in honor of NaNoWhatsit) I may discover a character who has something to say other than, "Just get me to the end of this damn short story, okay?"

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  6. Would love to have all of you guest post. I'll send you my e-mail address! Thanks so much guys!!!

    Jenni and Quill, you're so funny. I can't wait to see how your characters react to you. Oh my goodness, if your comments are anything to go by, they are quite the characters!

    Simon, as always, you crack me up. I can't wait to see what you come up with. And I hope it's soon ;) BTW, I love short stories. Reading and writing.

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  7. Awesome idea! I've never done that on paper, but it sure sounds like a good idea. If I can make time for it in the next few days, I'll let you know! :)

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  8. This is an amazing idea! I've never really thought of interviewing my characters but now am convinced my mc is dying to be interviewed. She's got things to tell me that I haven't tapped into yet and this is a great way to get there.

    (Realize that only another writer would understand that comment and not immediately be questioning my need for serious psychiatric intervention)

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  9. Haha! I promise, I won't be calling the nutter patrol on you. We're all in the same boat. I love what chatting/interviewing can do. It's just an amazing way to get their emotions and thoughts out that never quite make it to the story. So glad you go something out of the post!

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  10. What a great idea! I am SO going to be doing this over the weekend! Thanks!

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  11. Well, thank you! I'm glad you found it helpful. First guest posted interview is already up by Jenni Bailey. Looking for more :)

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