A to Z of Things Writers Should Know About Writing: Questions

I’m trying to post three times a week, but at the moment, work and life is still going crazy. That said, I’m still determined to see this series through. 

The way I see it, there are lots of new writers out there who are wondering if their writing experience is abnormal in some way, and this series is me saying: Phhhht. What’s normal? We’re writers, for heaven’s sake. 
Going on with this theme, I’m just going to come out and say that it’s completely okay to ask your characters questions. 
In fact, I recommend it. Yes, I know some writers create characters similarly to how people create cakes. (As in with a recipe or a set method.) You might be one of them. If you do the creation right, though, there should be some sort of aspect where the characters come alive. If they don’t, you’re doing it wrong. 
This is where asking questions comes in handy. Often, when characters refuse to play along, it’s because you don’t know all you need to know yet. The easy way to do this is go: Hey, character (using their actual name), what’s going on? 
No, doing this doesn’t make you insane. It makes you a writer. 
Or it might make you insane and I’m insane because I do this often. In fact, when I feel like I’m not getting everything I should into my story, I’ll sit down and do a character interview. Sometimes, the characters love talking about their hopes and dreams and whether they like cats. Others…not so much. 
But then, even with the sullen ones being sullen, I’m learning about them. I learn how they talk. I learn how they react to people prying. I learn all sorts of lovely things I can torture them with *ahem* use later.
See? All totally sane. 
What about you? Do you talk to your characters? How does it go for you? 
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15 thoughts on “A to Z of Things Writers Should Know About Writing: Questions

  1. I've had characters demand more “screen time.” I'm held back from going forward until this or that character gets a larger part. Each time this has happened, my book has been better because of it.

  2. I don't interview characters.

    When I write them, I write from their perspective…their goals, what drives them, what's important in their eyes. Sometimes (or often) that means their opinions and actions don't parallel those of the protagonist. Adds to the conflict and makes the story more realistic.

  3. Ooh, I often interview my characters, and I usually re-interview halfway threw writing the manuscript. It always amazing how this helps me see more of the character – areas he/she needs to grow, how much growth has happened, etc…

  4. I don't do interviews per se, but I have my characters tell me a synopsis of the story in their own words, so I can see how they'd view their side of the story, and I can get their voice down that way too. I've found it really helpful to get a good handle on the kind of person they are, how they talk and how they feel about things.
    Whatever the format, I think it's really useful talking to characters — this is where it helps to know other writers though, because otherwise talking to someone who doesn't exist does make you sound more than a little bit weird!

  5. I used to use a checklist of things you should apparently know about your characters e.g favourite food, favourite colour etc, but I found it so dull that I stopped. Instead, I love discovering my characters as I go along and I love it when they surprise me. I've just recently started wondering about taking a different approach and using some kind of character interview instead. Sarah's muse party blogfest is to blame for this – I had SO much fun writing that post, and I even though I thought I knew my character, I loved discovering something new about her. So I'll definitely try something along those lines the next time I need to get into a character's head!

  6. Ha, yeah, I talk to my characters. And then they have conversations with each other and whisper back and forth about how weird I am. Too bad one of them is going to get stuck with voices in his head! Ha! Take that!

  7. I love doing character interviews! Kind of ironic that you posted this today actually because I just started a series on my blog for interviewing characters and I'm looking for authors with characters willing to participate.

    But I totally agree. Never be afraid to ask your characters as many questions as it takes to get to know them. Some will cooperate. Some won't but you'll get to know them better either way 🙂

  8. Hi Misha,

    I had one of my characters interviewed on my site, way back when. Not only do I talk to my characters, they talk to me. All good fun.

    Gary 🙂

  9. I've done that on paper, but I like Alex's idea too – of writing down what characters think of each other – that sounds like a great way to ramp up tension or show closeness in relationships.

  10. I don't really talk to my characters, but I do take them out with me and watch how they tackle things. Even little things, such as how they handle the grocery shopping can tell me quite a lot about them.

  11. Karen, the same has happened to me.

    I love that idea, Alex.

    I have a similar approach, Terry, but I like getting to know all concerned a bit so that I know what those conflicts might be.

    Sheri, I do that too. It does help us see the characters' growth more clearly.

    Celine, your method intrigues me. 🙂

    Diane, I dream about mine too.

    You sound like me, Bish.

    Rachel, check-lists bore me too. Usually, I only find out what's relevant to a particular story. And that means that I have more of a relationship with my characters, believe it or not.

    Loni, sounds like Karma will get that guy. 😉

    Taryn, Callan and I loved your interview. 🙂

    It is fun, Gary.

    Tyrean, I also like that idea. Although I usually just ask them about the other characters and then see what jumps out.

    Patsy, that's so true. ^_^

    Hahahaha Shelly. Yeah it's difficult to explain the difference between being insane and being a writer.

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