Writer Report: Getting To Know You

Checklist

I mentioned last week that there’s a notion kicking around in my head for my next project. I also mentioned that I want to ensure the story is about characters, not just the universe and any cool stuff that’s in it. As much as imaginations are captivated by things like Jedi knights, Sith lords, alien beings, and far-off worlds with radical ecosystems, if none of the characters are interesting or appealing you might as well forget trying to tell an actual story and just pitch the setting to a video game company.

You don’t just need characters. You need characters who will be the focus of the action, the ones to whom readers will relate, heroes to cheer for and villains to boo at. And they don’t just spring out of the aether fully-formed and ready to kick ass. They came from somewhere, have reasons for doing what they do, entertain doubts and hold on to dreams. These are all things you should know before you write the first word of your story.

In my case, I’m taking the time to interview my characters. I start out with some basic questions (name, profession, viewpoints on some of the galaxy’s fixtures) and get more personal from there. I’m not sure how many questions is enough – ten? Fifteen? Twenty? Any more than that seems excessive. Naturally, the most interesting part is writing the answers. It helps me nail down the voice of the character, gives me a peek into what makes them tick, and gets me excited to throw them to the wolves prowling around the plot I’m brewing.

How do you get to know your characters?

1 Comment

  1. Interesting question. I wish I was a little more organized, but the characters seem to grow more familiar the more I write about them. Of course, sometimes this makes for a lot of rewrites, but it seems like the best way for me is to write scenes. Things that don’t make it into the story. What ifs. Just random stuff. I probably couldn’t answer the kinds of questions you pose about them, not early on.
    I also have a really long commute. That gives me lots of time to think.

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