Why is Oprah the queen of interview TV? Because she gets down to the dirt, the nitty gritty, the very core of the people she interviews. She skilfully asks all the intimate and pertinent questions that we want to ask, and then she asks the questions we didn’t even think to ask. She finds out the details and information that we want to know. We are left saying, “Damn! She’s good!” At the end of one of her shows, we are left with the feeling that now we really know her guest, thanks to her revealing interview.
That is the way you must think when you are creating a character. Pretend you are Oprah and your character is sitting opposite you in a comfy chair. (Or the hot seat!) Oprah asks the hard questions, and so must you. Really listen to your character, hear what they have to say, pay careful attention. Get to know your character intimately by asking the revealing questions. Be fearless and conduct a character interview that will illuminate the heart of your character and lay it bare. By the time you are done, you will know that character like the back of your hand.
Ask the hard questions, ask the digging questions, ask the questions you don’t dare to ask. When you get that character in that interview chair, be nosy, throw manners and etiquette out the window because you can. (Even Oprah can’t do that!) Or, if you need to handle that character with gentleness, love and patience, or kid gloves, then do so. Only you will know what to do, it is your character after all.
What will emerge if you really explore your character — as you would anyone you were really interested in and wanted to know more about — is an entire being, a real 3D individual. A character your audience can invest in.
Here’s a great Character Worksheet from author Jody Hedlund to get you started. This is the type of writing tool you want to arm yourself with when you want the fine details about a character. Thanks for sharing Jody!
Or, go out on a limb and get creative! Put together your own list of questions and specs to develop a unique, well rounded and fully fleshed out character.
Remember, your characters, especially your MC, wants to reveal every nuance of his or her nature to you. It’s up to you to convince them to do just that.