Thursday, November 5, 2009
Why You Should Interview Your Characters
In yesterday's blog post, I had a little sit-down with Anthony, one of my main characters, who has been giving me a bit of difficulty. You see, he wasn't all that thrilled with me because I've yet to introduce him in the new YA magical realism novel I'm working on. And frankly, I was getting a bit impatient to meet him myself. So to resolve both of our anxieties, I thought it best to actually talk to him (and the cheeky bugger had just flipped me the bird, so I had to take him to task). Please review that little "interview" before finishing this post.
Alright, now that you've seen how a character interview can work, let me just tell you that I found this particular chat with Anthony immensely satisfying. Moreover, I learned a lot from it. In fact, I think ALL authors should take a little time to interview their main characters. Why? For a number of reasons. Here's what I took away from mine:
1. You gain a much better sense of who your characters are even before you meet them. Anthony isn't even in my book yet, but I now have a better understanding of how he speaks and the way he reacts. I had some sense of his backstory already, but when I sat down to talk to him, his words and his gestures flowed so freely that it was as if he already existed. I think his characterization (via dialogue and actions and even gestures) will come more easily now. Fact is, characters, when well defined, should take on a life of their own.
2. You can see if the characterization needs improvement. After rereading the interview with Anthony, I was able to see that a very clear personality was emerging with him. But if I had struggled with his dialogue or his gestures, it would have been an obvious signal to me that I needed to create a more distinct personality for him. Even static characters need to have a sense of identity. You don't want your characters to seem flat to the reader, and an interview helps you to establish a voice for them through an interaction with you.
3. If you interview your characters at different points in the narrative, you can get a sense of how they are changing throughout the story. A series of interviews can also help you to determine if your characterization is staying consistent. Even dynamic characters that change throughout the story should not lose the core of their identities--that voice that is so essentially theirs.
4. It's crazy fun to sit down with your own characters. As an author, you come to love your characters as your own children--and sometimes, if you're anything like me, you might even fall in love with one of them. I think it's natural to want to meet them, and this is one way to do it.
5. It's essential that we establish a relationship with our characters. And I don't mean that we must all cast aside our sane selves and gallivant in an imagined field of daisies with our leading men (unless you want to); but I do think that we must feel connected to our characters in order to portray them genuinely. How often have you read a book where the characters lack any depth whatsoever? I'm certain this results when authors have no sense of who their characters are because they haven't spent any time fleshing out their identities.
Now, given this long tirade on the benefits of interviewing fictional characters (of which I'm sure there are more), I thought it would be fun to begin a series on my blog of character interviews, not just with my own (though you'll likely be seeing more of those), but other authors' chats with their characters as well. Ooooo, getting excited just thinking about it--gives a whole new meaning to an interview with a vampire (eh hemm...Anthony is not a vampire, for the record, but maybe your mc is). So, if you're interested in guest posting an interview, let me know. Would love to have you.
Note: Photo is a still from Interview with a Vampire found on some Czech fan site.
Labels: writing, publish, rejection writer author interview character chat Anthony novel YA young adult creative characterization identity fun relationship