The more you know about your characters, especially your protagonist, the richer and more convincing your creations will be. When mystery writer Sue Miller gets stuck, she asks herself, “What are twenty things I know about my character?” You can take a leaf from her page to deepen your knowledge of who your character is and what he or she wants. How? By playing the role of interviewer — asking your character questions and jotting down the answers.
Creating a history and profile for your key characters — what’s often called “back story” in film – can give you enormous confidence as you bring them to life on the page. When you know a lot about your characters, that richness and knowledge seeps into your writing and creates complexity and texture.
What questions might you ask your characters? Here are a few possibilities you can play around with:
What do you want most — what’s your burning desire?
What are you willing to give up to get it?
Who matters most to you in the world?
What are you most afraid of and how do you mask your fear?
What’s your biggest secret and what would you risk to keep it?
What do you think about all the time?
What memories from childhood do you keep returning to?
What physical trait are you most proud of? What emotional quality?
What are you most ashamed of?
What makes you feel good about yourself?
What makes you feel small and insignificant?
These are just a few ideas to get you started. Interviewing this way can be fun and very freeing — the answers are between you and the page. And who knows? Your character might just surprise you!