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  • Writer's pictureCarson Faircloth

How to Interview Your Main Character (51+ Questions to Ask)

Earlier this week, we reviewed how to build a great character profile. And while profiles are necessary to support the development of a well-rounded manuscript, they can also be quite boring.

Name? Check. Age? Check. Height? Weight? Race? Check, check and check. Congratulations! Your character has now been reduced to a file on your computer.

You shouldn’t have to limit your creativity for the sake of organization. If building out a character profile feels too restrictive, try a more creative approach: the character interview.

A great character interview will hit all of the same notes as a profile, but it will feel far more organic (and fun). As an added bonus, you’ll get the opportunity to work on your dialogue. Two birds, one stone.

Just like a character profile, a character interview should follow a certain structure. The best interviews will have three main components:

  • Phase One: Getting to Know Each Other

  • Phase Two: Let’s Dive Deeper

  • Phase Three: Tell Me Your Darkest Secrets

To start out, envision your character in an interrogation room. Bright lights. A one-way mirror. Maybe even a plate of donuts on the table. I don’t know; I’ve never been in an interrogation room, but we’re rolling with the donuts for this particular scenario.

Ready? Good. Let’s start the interview!

The Interview

Phase One: Getting to Know Each Other

  1. What’s your name?

  2. Your age?

  3. How tall are you?

  4. How much do you weigh?

  5. What’s your race? Your ethnicity?

  6. What does your hair look like?

  7. Why did you choose that hairstyle?

  8. What color are your eyes?

  9. How’s your vision?

  10. How would you describe your facial features?

  11. Do you like your nose, or your lips, or another physical feature in particular?

  12. Do you dislike a physical feature in particular?

  13. Do you have any scars?

  14. Did you have acne as a teenager? Or do you have it now?

  15. Any beauty marks?

  16. How would you describe your physical build?

  17. Describe what you look like in three words.

Phase Two: Let’s Dive Deeper

  1. Are you an extrovert, or an introvert?

  2. How would most people describe you?

  3. What about you? Describe yourself in three words.

  4. Do you get annoyed easily?

  5. Are you a neat freak, or do you consider yourself a messy person?

  6. Do you think you’re more go-with-the-flow? Or do you like routine?

  7. Are you ever sad for long periods of time?

  8. Do interviews like this make you anxious?

  9. What do you like most about yourself?

  10. What do you like least about yourself?

  11. Would you consider yourself brave?

  12. Have you ever cheated on a test before?

  13. If your friend needed to borrow your last $5, would you lend it to them?

  14. Do you cry easily?

  15. Would you consider yourself a prankster? Or do you think pranks are immature?

  16. Do you make friends easily?

  17. How many close friends do you have?

  18. Are you, generally, a likable person?

Phase Three: Tell Me Your Darkest Secrets

  1. Do you have any siblings? If so, what are they like?

  2. If you don’t have siblings, did you ever want a brother or sister?

  3. What are your parents like?

  4. What’s your relationship like with your parents like?

  5. Do you have any other relatives? Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents?

  6. What’s your relationship like with those relatives like, if any?

  7. Who are your closest friends?

  8. How long have they been your friends?

  9. Where did you grow up?

  10. Do you still live there?

  11. If so, are you happy there? If not, why did you move?

  12. What’s your favorite childhood memory? Why?

  13. What’s your worst childhood memory? Why?

  14. Do you have any pets? How many? If not, why not?

  15. Do you like animals, in general? Are you allergic?

  16. What’s your favorite color? What about it do you like?

  17. What do you like to do in your free time?

  18. Which chore do you like the least?

  19. What do you like most about your life?

  20. What is your biggest regret in life?

  21. What is your greatest ambition in life?

  22. Do you have a dream career?

  23. What is your greatest fear in life?

  24. What’s the worst lie you’ve ever told?

  25. What is your deepest, darkest secret?

You and your character have made it to the end of the interview. Huzzah!

As an additional (read: optional) step, I sometimes use the interview as an opportunity to outline the events of the manuscript. This is especially useful if you have a beginning, middle and end in mind – but no real direction beyond those critical moments.

Keep that interrogation room in mind. You’re exhausted. Your character is exhausted. They’ve just spilled their guts to a complete stranger, after all.

Now, imagine that this interview is taking place at the conclusion of the book. The final chapter has closed. Your story is written. And your character probably has a hell of a lot to say about the events that occurred within those pages.

So. What do they have to say for themselves?

The After-Interview

  1. Where did it all go wrong, so to speak? What was the Problem?

  2. How did you day-to-day change?

  3. How did your world’s day-to-day change, if at all?

  4. How did you react to the Problem? Why?

  5. How did the Problem get worse?

  6. How did you feel about the Problem? Afraid? Excited? Annoyed?

  7. What was the most surprising thing that happened to you along the way?

  8. What was the most painful thing that happened to you along the way?

  9. What was the best thing that happened to you along the way?

  10. How did you face the Problem?

  11. Did the Problem resolve itself? Or will there be a Problem in the future?

  12. How do you think you changed from the start of your journey to the end of your journey?

  13. How do you feel about the future?

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