As a writer, I’ve come across those times when I just can’t seem to get past a certain issue with a character or my story seems to have stopped. I’ve tried my usual solo-brainstorming where I type away on the computer talking myself through an issue; I’ve put the writing aside and tried to let things take seed and revisited it later; tried to fill in any blanks in the Character Profile Sheet* that I may have missed or didn’t elaborate on…but to no avail. It’s at times like these that I interview my own characters.
The first rule about this is LET YOUR IMAGINATION GO! Don’t censor anything. Don’t rewrite anything. Don’t direct your characters to go in a certain direction. Just let it flow. Here’s how it works…at least this is how I conduct an interview with my characters.
- Sit down at the computer and in your mind, picture yourself in a setting…whatever setting comes to mind. You could find yourself in a park, on a subway train, at your old desk you wrote your first book/article/poem at, your bedroom you had when you were five years old…whatever. Let your mind take you to the first place that enters your mind. Write this down. Start typing what you’re seeing, how you feel, your thoughts on why you think you’re mind went here or what you’re thoughts are about the place. Don’t go into a major analysis here. Just make a light comment and then move on.
- Imagine your character, now, coming onto the scene. You don’t have to picture them in any great detail, but if it helps to do that, knock yourself out! The important thing is to bring your character onto the scene as if you were going to interact with him/her. Write all of this down.
- Let the exchange happen. This is the part where you kinda sit back and watch how you and your character interact. Who is the first one to speak? What do they say? What do you say? Are you both sitting there in uncomfortable silence? Are you at a loss for words? Then tell your character you’re not sure what you two should talk about. They may surprise you. Write all of this down.
This is a free-flowing form of brainstorming that allows you to see your characters the way you’ve created them in your subconscious. I’ve had characters come into a room or setting and they won’t sit down. I’ve asked them to relax and they either tell me why they’re agitated; or they say they didn’t realize it; or they tell me to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine and that they’re going to continue to pace.
The fun part about this is your characters will sometimes do things you didn’t expect them to do. I have a vampire character that has lit up a cigarette while we were interviewing. I asked, “Excuse me, but why do you smoke? You’re immortal…drugs have no affect on you, no addiction, no real satisfaction as far as I can see.” He told me, “I do it because I can. I get satisfaction out of the fact that I AM immortal and it won’t hurt me. It reminds me of my invincibility.” Well, there you have it! And his answer was as unexpected as the habit of smoking! Let your characters come alive here and you might end up developing traits about your character that you never dreamed of on your own.
Where you have your setting, what your characters say and how you interact with them has its own hidden meanings. Re-read your interview when you’re done and examine what those might be. What do these pieces of the setting and interview say to you about your character or what you think about your character? If you DID have the setting in your bedroom when you were five and you’re meeting with a male character in his 40s, this might say something about how you see him. Is he childish? Would he be comfortable in a room like this? If he is UNcomfortable, what does that say about you putting your character in an uncomfortable setting? Did you WANT him to be uncomfortable? Did you think he would be at home only to find out he wasn’t? Things like this reveal hidden meanings about your characters and/or story.
Finishing the conversation isn’t necessary, either. The point of this exercise is to move forward on your story and/or your character development. If you wish to conclude the meeting politely, then by all means, do so. Once you get those juices flowing, you’ve accomplished your goal! Hope this helps!!