Interviewing your main characters

third-degree-interrogationMy writer’s group did an exercise last week I found both interesting and useful. It’s also something you can do with your own writing. Interrogate your characters.

You are questioned by police as a material witness about a crime your book character may have been involved in. The crime is not specified. The interviewer just wants information about your character. You don’t need to pretend to be your character (although that would be a variation on the idea). You just need to answer the questions based on your knowledge of the character.


Also, don’t use notes. The idea is to discover how well you know your character. The better you know the character, the easier it will be to write from that character’s perspective.

In watching my writer’s group leader perform the interrogations, it was interesting to see how he uncovered discrepancies with how the character would react in different situations or conflicting personality traits. These were pointed out to the author to consider as he or she wrote. Discovering and rectifying these potential problems before the book is published can save the author headaches later. 

I also saw that the interview could lead to the author making up missing information on the fly. There’s nothing wrong with this as long as it remains consistent with the character’s personality.

Try it with your characters and see what you discover that you didn’t know about them.

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