In order for your readers to fully appreciate your story, you must have realistic characters that they can relate to. Why? Everything that happens in your story—the entire plot line—centers around what happens to the characters. If you can’t make your readers connect to your protagonist—if you can’t create that bond between character and reader—no one will care about what happens in your story. For example, would you spend hours on end worrying about the stranger that you heard about on the news who just got in a car accident? I mean…yeah. You would feel bad for him/her. But as soon as the doorbell rang, signaling that the pizza guy had finally arrived with your dinner, your mind would shift back to your personal life. The situation might be a little different, however, if it was your best friend’s name that appeared on the news.
So. How do you make your characters relatable? How can you make your readers care about what happens to your protagonist? Step One: learn your characters from front to back. I mean, if you don’t understand your characters, how do you expect your readers to? Know their quirks, habits, personalities, reactions, mood swings…everything. Among other methods that you can try, such as checking character trait lists or filling out character charts, one of the best ways to get to know your characters is to complete a character interview.
And what the heck is a character interview? …Well, if you read the name, you can kind of figure out that it’s an interview…for a character.
Pretend that you’re a reporter and your character is the interviewee. Now, in order for a character interview to be successful, you should act like it’s really happening. In other words, write the entire thing in story format. Develop a setting that fits your character’s personality—possibly one that appears in your story—and have him/her react to the questions as if he/she were a real person. Note how your character looks and speaks. Does he/she mumble and keep his/her face toward the ground? Or does he/she stand tall and look you straight in the eye? What is he/she wearing?
Still don’t understand how this works? Check out my sample response in the “Comments” section.
Of course, you need some questions for your interview, right? I’ll list some below. But remember that—depending on your story’s plot—some of these might not apply to you. Answer what you can. And if you think of another question to ask that I don’t have listed here, please feel free to share!
- Why did you want to come to this place for the interview? (This is referring to the setting that you chose. Does it play a part in the story?)
- What are your strengths? Weaknesses?
- Is there anything that you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t done? What’s keeping you from doing it?
- Are you a morning or night person?
- What time do you normally get up/go to bed?
- Do you like to show off?
- What’s your most prized possession? Why?
- Do you have one sense that’s more highly developed than another? (In other words, do you see more than you hear or vica-versa? Or do you rely on the famous sixth sense?)
- What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done? Why did you do it? Did you ever do anything to make up for it? If not, why?
- Do you have any birthmarks or tattoos?
- Do you have a hot temper? Or can you keep your cool?
- Do you get along well with other people? Or would you prefer to be left alone?
- What’s the scariest thing that has ever happened to you?
- Does anybody live with you? Who are they? Do you get along with them?
- Tell me about your parents and siblings if you have/had any. How well do/did you get along with them?
- What were three things that you liked to do when you were a child?
- What were you afraid of when you were younger?
- What is your greatest fear now?
- What would you change about yourself if you could?
- Do you have a secret that you’ve never told anyone?
- What do you want most in the world (or out of this world…whichever…)?
- Do you believe in destiny?
- Have you ever been married? If so, how many times? Have you ever been divorced?
- Are you—or have you ever been—in love? What happened to that person? Did he/she love you back?
- What is driving you to keep going—to keep fighting toward your goal? Greed? Power? Love? Revenge? Respect from others?
- Are you a leader or a follower?
- Do you depend on others or do you handle things for yourself?
- Are you an optimist or a pessimist?
- Do you like to crack jokes? Or are you serious all the time?
- If you could bring someone back to life, who would it be and why would you choose him/her?
- Are you comfortable with your appearance? If not, what would you change?
- You’re watching a tear-jerker….What do you do if you’re alone? If you’re around other people?
This next section is for the protagonist (the good guy) and the antagonist (the bad guy) to answer about each other.
- Describe your relationship with the antagonist/protagonist. Were you ever friends? Could you ever be friends?
- How did you and the antagonist/protagonist get to know each other?
- What do you hate the most about the antagonist/protagonist?
- What is the antagonist/protagonist’s BEST quality?
- Could you ever forgive the antagonist/protagonist?
- What are the antagonist/protagonist’s weaknesses? If you don’t know them, how do you plan to figure them out?
- Why are you enemies with the antagonist/protagonist?
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