100+ Questions to Help You Interview Your Character

How well do you know your characters? Like the back of my hand, you say? Do you know the color of your hero’s eyes? Do you know where the bad guy went to college? Do you know your heroine’s most embarrassing moment? Can you rattle off a list of your main character’s idiosyncrasies? Typical expressions? Romantic history?

If any one of these questions had you fumbling for an answer, then you’re missing a prime opportunity to deepen your characters and expand your story. Over the years, one of the most useful tools I’ve run across is the “character interview.” My own list started out as twenty or so basic questions regarding physical appearance and personality issues. Now it contains over fifty precise and penetrating questions, designed to get my brain juices flowing and my characters talking.

Interviewing your characters may become a vital part of your outlining process, as it has mine. I’ll often fill up half a notebook with narrative answers to the most probing questions about my characters’ relationships, beliefs, and secrets. I refer to these lists constantly throughout the actual writing process, not only for on-the-spot inspiration, but for fact checking (How old was he when his mother died? Did he break his left or his right leg in that car accident?).

Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success by K.M. WeilandI’ve included below the list I’ve compiled for myself. Feel free to copy it out and use it to get your own characters talking. (Note: Since writing this post, I’ve updated this list when nearly fifty more questions. You can find longer lists in my free e-book Crafting Unforgettable Characters and my book Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success, and the complete list in the Outlining Your Novel Workbook software.)

Character Interview Outlining Your Novel Workbook computer program

Other Options for Interviewing Your Characters

You might also want to keep in mind several other useful techniques, including the enneagram (any-a-gram), a personality test that aligns character traits to one of nine categories and outlines strengths and flaws. Not only is it interesting reading, but it can also help round out a character and summarize his personality. Something I’ve found especially helpful is the “fatal flaw” that accompanies each personality.

Crafting Unforgettable CharactersFinally, should you run across a taciturn character who refuses to let you into his deeper psyche, try a “freehand interview.” Instead of forcing your character into the rigidity of the set questions in a regular interview, just throw him onto the page and start asking him questions: What’s the matter with you? What are you hiding from me? You’ll be surprised what you can drag out of your characters using this method.

All three of these tools, used in concert, can work miracles in breaking open the walls between author and character and forcing your characters to spill their guts and reveal their deepest motivations. Plus, it’s grand fun!

Character Interview

Name:

Background:

Place of birth:

Parents:

Siblings:

Ethnic background:

Places lived:

Current address and phone number:

Education:

Favorite subject in school:

Special training:
Jobs:

Salary:

Travel:

Friends:

Enemies:

Dating, marriage:

Children:

What people does he most admire:

Relationship with God:

Overall outlook on life:

Does this character like himself:

What, if anything, would he like to change about his life:

Is he lying to himself about something?

How is he viewed by others:

Physical appearance:

Physical build:

Posture:

Head shape:

Eyes:

Nose:

Mouth:

Hair

Skin:

Tattoos/piercings/scars:

Voice:

Right- or left-handed:

Handicap:

What you notice first:

Clothing:

How would he describe himself:

Health/disabilities:

Characteristics:

Strongest/weakest character traits:

How much self-control and self-discipline does he have:

Fears:

Political leaning:

Collections, talents:

What people like best about him:

Interests and favorites:

Food, drink:

Music:

Books:

Movies:

Sports, recreation:

Did he play in school:

Color:

Best way to spend a weekend:

A great gift for this person:

Pets:

Vehicle:

Typical expressions:

When happy:

When angry:

When sad:

Idiosyncrasies:

Laughs or jeers at:

Ways to cheer up this person:

Ways to annoy this person:

Hopes and dreams:

What’s the worst thing he’s ever done to someone and why:

Greatest success:

Biggest trauma:

What does he care about most in the world:

Does he have a secret:

What does/will he like best about the other main character(s):

What does/will he like least about the other main character(s):

If he could do one thing and succeed at it, what would it be:

Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to him:

He is the kind of person who:

Why will the reader sympathize with this person right away:

History:

Tell me your opinion: How do you get to know your characters?

100 Plus Questions to Help You Interview Your Character

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website.

Comments

  1. I get to know my characters by simply chewing them in my head. It’s like I’m pregnant. It could also be like rolling up a ball to make a snowman. I first get an idea of what my story and characters are about. They simply evolve over time due to my constant thinking about them. I don’t force myself to think of anything new. I just keep thinking of what I already know about the plot and characters, and eventually, it leads me to new plot points and more character development… and after about nine months or so, I birth it into the world via my first draft.

  2. Thanks so much K. M. Weiland; this has helped me enormously. I know my character better now. I applied the enneagram technique as well – she is a two with five; self-preservation subtype so her flaws are pride and avarice. Lots of material for my NaNoWriMo attempt. You are such a great help to new authors.

  3. Aida Santa says:

    Great post for learning more about your characters.

    I approach the character by drawing up a biography first. Then I will free association to reach the character. I find I get to know the character really well as they are apt to “speak” in their voice. You’ll hear, figuratively speaking, the nuances, their sarcasm, or angst as they “answer” your questions.

    Thank for your post!

  4. Hi, Im Wend from Indonesia. I really like your book. I am writing my final course and I use your book to be one of the research references on character. Can I find out what Unforgettable Crafting books were released in the year? thanks.

Trackbacks

  1. […] 100+ Questions to Help You Interview Your Character […]

  2. […] If you would like some tips for building a memorable character – how to actually make these 5 things happen on the page – check out my Creating Believable Characters video from last week.  I also highly recommend Lindsey Summers’ Skillshare video, and KM Weiland’s character interview blog post. […]

  3. […] find my best results when I use a guided interview process with specific questions. I have curated a list of over 100 questions, which I use on all my POV characters and […]

  4. […] are adapted from HERE, a post from Allison Maruska, and a list I still had from a creative writing class in […]

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