One thing I sometimes do in the name of character development is interview my characters. I have a list of questions I reuse that fit my genre, plus I add some questions that seem right for the particular character. It’s possible to conduct an interview as part of the preparation for drafting, but I get to know my characters by watching them act. So I usually wait until I finish my first draft.
Below are some of the questions I asked Jarka, a secondary character in The Wind Reader who will have his own book at the end of June 2020 (The Wysman, from Inspired Quill). You’ll notice Jarka answers in first person. The Wysman happens to be in first, but I use first for the interview even if the book is in third because I find it useful for catching a character’s voice.
Some of the questions I ask are trivial, but I still find them useful.
What’s your earliest memory?
I’m lying on the floor chalking letters on a slate. My mother is rocking and knitting. There’s the creak of the chair and the hum of the fire and the squeak of my chalk. I smell bread.
What’s your favorite color?
Blue. The color of the sky when it’s high or of the river in summer.
What’s your favorite food?
Roast beef. Not that I get it very often, even at the castle. So of what I’m likely to get much of, I like roast pork.
Have you ever had a pet?
No. Who can afford to have an animal that doesn’t work but has to be fed? Or am I talking about myself?
The only answer from this list that made it into the book is Jarka’s favorite color. In the book, he’s walking along the street and thinks the sky is his favorite color. It’s a tiny detail, but I liked it.
More Substantive Questions
The first question here, about the body, is one I reuse. In Jarka’s case, it’s particularly relevant because he was born with a club foot.
How do you feel about your body?
My mother used to say that my foot was a gift and I should value it for what it taught me. I can see into the deep world, she’d say. It makes me different, which can be a pain. People pity me or mock me, and I don’t know which is worse. I’m tall and not bad looking, I think, but I’m not sure if a girl would ever look at me. None has so far.
What’s your most prized possession?
The wind box that Prince Beran gave me. It’s beautiful and powerful. And it shows the prince believed Doniver when he said I helped save the king’s life. It shows the prince respects what I can do. Others can see what a beautiful thing it is and know what Beran thinks.
Not every writer will find character interviews useful. If you’re interested in trying this technique, here’s a list of questions to choose from.
The Wysman is now available for pre-order. $3.99 ebook. $14.99 paperback.
Former street kid, now training to be the king’s advisor, can’t stop hunting whoever’s grabbing street kids–even after the king orders him to back off. He also can’t stop wondering why the king ordered that.