1. ScottM84
    Offline

    ScottM84 Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2014
    Messages:
    51
    Likes Received:
    17

    Is this a totally ridiculous way to develop characters?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by ScottM84, May 13, 2014.

    I'm hoping to write a novel for older preteens and young teens. My protagonists are a brother and sister who are twins. After trying to think of a way to develop them to give myself an idea of how to handle them in the story, I came up with the idea of an interview earlier today.

    What I did was place myself in the role of an interviewer who wanted to know more about the characters. In Microsoft Word, I started typing questions, and had the characters answer them. My thought was that I might be able to "discover" quite a bit about the characters by doing that. Has anyone ever done that or heard of it being done? To those of you who have more experience than I do (which would be almost everybody, lol), does my idea sound reasonable?
     
    Poziga likes this.
  2. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,985
    Likes Received:
    5,503
    I think it sounds perfectly reasonable--assuming that the character are answering the questions, er, in character. That is, for example, if they'd lie, I'd like to see them lie.

    Another possibility, one that I think I suggested once in some thread, would be to interview Character A about Character B.
     
    jannert likes this.
  3. ScottM84
    Offline

    ScottM84 Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2014
    Messages:
    51
    Likes Received:
    17
    I like the idea about asking them about each other. Right now, I'm interviewing them together, and I've already come up with a few ideas about them. I've also come up with some things I need to research.

    I think when I'm done with the "together part" of the interview I will ask them about each other.
     
  4. sunsplash
    Offline

    sunsplash Bona fide beach bum

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2012
    Messages:
    312
    Likes Received:
    159
    Location:
    Between the Magic City & the Conch Republic
    I've done something similar when I get stuck or feel like I don't know a character well enough to continue. I'd say whatever helps you best flesh them out, unorthodox or not, do it! :)
     
  5. desert rat
    Offline

    desert rat Member

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2014
    Messages:
    32
    Likes Received:
    10
    I too am doing this exercise to learn about my characters. I do it in a coffee shop (a place where you might actually meet someone to interview them) and write everything longhand (only because that is how I would actually do an interview). My characters have given me ideas and drawn connections that I never could have simply by sitting and thinking of them. I believe this is quite a common activity to get to know your character (and there is no wrong way to do it) and for me it is fun, exhilarating, and amazes me what comes out when I just let it. I see it as you are relaxing your logical mind and really allowing the creative part of your mind to throw out ideas. I cannot imaging developing a story without this crucial step. typically my interviews and character descriptions run 6-10 pages of text, and that does not cover the detail I would like. The more these characters become fleshed out the more I want to know more about them. I only do it for the principal characters - it would be fun to do for all the characetrs but the story would never get written :). I think it is particularly important to do this for your antagonist (and it is harder to do for the bad guy - who wants to meet and learn about the bad guy?) to create a strong, believable conflict, driven from the personality of the characters. In my opinion, this is the most important aspect of conflict development in a story (book, film, play,... whatever). What motivates the character to act as he is and how do I make all of their actions consistent. if you have motivation worked out the plot practically jumps into existence.

    I can also use this "interview" to practice describing what they look like, how they dress, etc. I describe them as they enter the coffee shop, bar r whatever, and their clothing and looks have to reflect the character. it is a very powerful approach to character development.

    Finally, It is valuable way to get feedback. My main character in my latest project is a woman, but I am a man. So I sent my interview to women friends and family and asked them if they thought that her reactions to past events and traumas were realistic and believable (and consistent). So, based on their feedback I can modify my woman character to be more womanly or more butch, or whatever I need to have her exhibit appropriate responses in the story.

    Have great fun with it and let them introduce themselves and tell you all about themselves.:)
     
    ddavidv likes this.
  6. ScottM84
    Offline

    ScottM84 Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2014
    Messages:
    51
    Likes Received:
    17
    Thanks for the input. Part of me really wondered if it was a silly idea, so it's nice to know I'm on the right track!
     
  7. Xueqin-II
    Offline

    Xueqin-II Member

    Joined:
    May 5, 2014
    Messages:
    76
    Likes Received:
    24
    I would not think so.

    I daydream of my characters going about their day most of the time. It leads to good revelations.
     
  8. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,819
    Likes Received:
    7,342
    Location:
    Scotland
    I think the interview idea is excellent. Much better than making character lists and assigning characteristics.

    I also like @ChickenFreak 's idea of interviewing the characters separately, and asking them about each other.

    A drawback to this technique is if you make your interview scenario too real. If you're actually a TV chat host, you might find your characters aren't entirely upfront with you. They may well hold back on feelings they don't want made public. It's interesting if you can ferret these out, but they may not reveal 'all' to you.

    If your characters do 'hide' during the interview, you could maybe interview them as you would imagine a psychiatrist or counsellor would do. In other words, in private, in confidence?
     
  9. Lea`Brooks
    Offline

    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 11, 2013
    Messages:
    2,635
    Likes Received:
    1,731
    Location:
    Virginia, United States
    I bought a writing how-to book when I first started writing, and the author used interviews as a way to develop your character. He made up a fake interview between Tolkien and Frodo. It was interesting indeed. :)
     
  10. mg357
    Offline

    mg357 Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2012
    Messages:
    368
    Likes Received:
    33
    I like the interview idea very much if it works use it.
     
  11. Renee J
    Offline

    Renee J Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2013
    Messages:
    463
    Likes Received:
    214
    Location:
    Reston, VA
    It could also develop characters if they lie during the interview or refuse to answer questions. I can see "notes" on top of the interview, such as, "he's clearly lying." Or, "this must be a touchy subject for her."
     
    sunsplash likes this.
  12. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,684
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    If you think about it, the idea of "interviewing" your characters is not all that different from putting them into situations and letting their characters develop from there, but I do see one potential drawback (aside from the interesting point that @jannert made). In developing your conception of your characters by "interviewing" them, you are taking the role of the interviewer hearing about them, which places you at a distance when your goal is to present their POVs in your story. You may continue to present them from your POV instead of theirs. But, forewarned is forearmed.
     
    sunsplash and Renee J like this.
  13. ChaosReigns
    Offline

    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2013
    Messages:
    1,090
    Likes Received:
    455
    Location:
    Canterbury, Kent, United Kingdom
    that doesnt sound too bad a way of doing things, i personally did the "throw them into a situation and see how they react" method, which turned into 2 possibly 3 novels and im only just doing character profiles from memory now
     
    jannert likes this.
  14. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,819
    Likes Received:
    7,342
    Location:
    Scotland
    Well, that's my preferred method as well, but whatever works!
     
  15. Simpson17866
    Offline

    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    Messages:
    1,754
    Likes Received:
    1,296
    If it works, it's not ridiculous. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise ;)
     
  16. Alix465
    Offline

    Alix465 Banned

    Joined:
    May 11, 2014
    Messages:
    10
    Likes Received:
    0
    The most obvious disadvantage of conducting any type of research interview is that they are time consuming, particularly if they are recorded and fully transcribed (ie word for word). As with the advantages of conducting research interviews, disadvantages vary with the type of interview.
     
  17. Burlbird
    Offline

    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2011
    Messages:
    978
    Likes Received:
    295
    Location:
    Somewhere Else
    I like the idea of an "interview" with characters, especially if you find yourself feeling stuck and need something to push your creativity in the right direction.

    The only problem I see (not necessarilly a bad thing) is that it's easy to slip into a projective interview - my wife (a psychologist) uses the same approach with her patients everyday: draw-a-figure test is the most common one. So don't be surprised if you start giving very personal answers to your own questions :)
     
  18. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    I believe some writers do that often. I've certainly seen advice telling writers to do the very thing you're doing on this forum.

    At the end of the day, if it helps you develop the characters, who cares if it's completely ridiculous? Do whatever it takes to get your story and characters developed. Everyone's different and if that's your way, go for it! :)
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  19. Catrin Lewis
    Online

    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2014
    Messages:
    1,685
    Likes Received:
    1,079
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I think I'm going to do this for my two main characters. I keep writing what I think is hot stuff, the situations and dialogue are just pouring out, then I think, wait a minute, would she really do that? Is that really what he'd have to say? No. And I have to go back and write it all over.

    And character interviews might fight off the temptation to have my characters explain themselves too much within the text. If they can get it out of their systems off-camera, as it were, maybe I could work on making them act like themselves instead.
     
    jannert likes this.
  20. Ulramar
    Offline

    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 6, 2014
    Messages:
    799
    Likes Received:
    243
    Location:
    My own fantasy world, living the good life
    The book World War Z does this. The premise of this book is that the Zombie War is over, and the protagonist works for the government. He compiles interviews with survivors all across the world of their stories for a big report for his boss. The book is just a collection of short stories set as interviews with a different character in each chapter.

    It can work, but it may be hard with only two characters.
     
  21. Catrin Lewis
    Online

    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2014
    Messages:
    1,685
    Likes Received:
    1,079
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I believe the idea is to use the interview method as a character-development tool outside the novel itself. Though perhaps it could work as a format as in the book you mention.

    As a tool for keeping things straight I think it would work best when you've got a decent amount written already. E.g., my characters have come to an interim crisis and it'd be good to ask them about their pasts (which I know a great deal about already) to help me stay real about how they respond to the current issue.

    If I could cite chapter and verse from what I've written already as sources for my characters' answers, I'd do it. But page numbers are fluid in a computer draft.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2014
  22. Ulramar
    Offline

    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 6, 2014
    Messages:
    799
    Likes Received:
    243
    Location:
    My own fantasy world, living the good life
    Oh, I misunderstood. Yeah that could easily work, although it seems kind of odd. There's a lot more writing involved than necessary with that. But to each his own.

    If we're talking just giving their characteristics, that's going above and beyond what's needed. What I do is just a simple character biography sheet.

    Name:
    Age:
    Pre-war occupation:
    Physique:
    Characteristics:

    And I just do that for all my characters. I have seven of those documents on my computer, for each and every main character. If you're looking to capture voice it's not great and an interview would work better.
     
  23. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    It's not how I would create a character, but that doesn't make it ridiculous. If it works for you, go for it. If it doesn't work for you, revise it or discard it.

    The proof of how well it works is in the final product. And the hard part isn't creating a character; it's discovering how best to present the character to the readers in the context of a story.
     

Share This Page