“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in
having new eyes.”
Character cries out to us in fiction. You can the world’s best plot, but without memorable characters, a story won’t get very far: It’s like a car without a driver. According to Josie Zeman, a seasoned journalist, one technique for creating more memorable characters in both fiction and nonfiction is to interview them. Mmm…sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? The idea is to build back stories for your characters. If you flesh them out as completely as you can, you’ll be so intimately acquainted with them that you’ll know what they would and wouldn’t do.
Marcel Proust, certainly no slouch in the character department, actually came up with a list of “interview” questions to ask. With thanks to Josie, here it is:
What’s your greatest achievement?
What’s your idea of perfect happiness?
What’s your current state of mind?
What is your most treasured possession?
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
What is your favorite journey?
What is your most marked characteristic?
When and where were you the happiest?
What is it that you most dislike?
What is your greatest fear?
What is your greatest extravagance?
Which living person do you most despise?
What is your greatest regret?
Which talent would you most like to have?
Where would you like to live?
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
What is the quality you most like in a man? a woman?
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Why not try sitting down with paper and pen, selecting a few questions from this list that seem relevant to one of your characters, and then jotting down whatever comes up? The answers might be surprising — and superb. Write on!