I discovered a new writer’s chat on Twitter this week called #storycraft. It’s a chat dedicated to the discussion of various aspects of story craft and takes place Sunday 6-8pm (US Eastern time)/ Monday 8-10am (Australian EST). The topic for this week was about fleshing out characters so they are 3D and not flat cardboard cutouts, or worse, the dreaded Mary-Sue. A Mary-Sue character is one who is perfect in every way, beautiful, smart, loved by everyone… and boring because she has no flaws or quirks. The male equivalent is usually referred to as a Gary-Stu. If you want to test if your character is a Mary Sue there are many Mary-Sue litmus tests available online, here’s one you can try: The Universal Mary-Sue Litmus Test. It’s one of the most comprehensive ones I’ve come across.
One thing I do to ensure I have a 3D character is to do character profiles and character interviews before I start writing. By doing this I can ensure my characters are well rounded and well developed before I start writing them. It also helps me get inside their heads because I know how they will react to certain situations. My character profiles consist of basic background info: Full name; age; hometown; family; main strengths; and main weaknesses (it’s just as important to have weaknesses as strengths; real people have flaws, and so should your character).
For the character interviews I have a list of questions relating to different aspects of my character’s life and I answer them from the POV of my character. Here are some of the questions I ask (*note: I may not necessarily use the answers or background information in the story itself, it’s just a way to flesh out my characters in my head so I can find their unique voice):
Describe your family. (This is not just a list of the members of your character’s family, but how they would describe them.)
If your house was on fire and you could only grab 3 things, what would they be? (Shows what is important to your character.)
Are you religious at all, and if so, in what way?
What kind of music do you listen to, and why?
What’s the last thing you’d be caught doing?
What has been the best experience of your life so far? (I answer this one as the best experience of my character’s life prior to the beginning of the story, but you could also answer it in relation to the story too)
What has been the worst day of your life? (As before, I answer what it would have been prior to the beginning of the story, but you can answer in relation to the story)
Describe the kind of person you want to marry, if you want to be married at all.
If you go to school, what is your favourite subject, and why?
Sum yourself up in 5 words.
You can add as many questions to your interview as you want, you can include questions about friends, goals, dreams, work, etc. It’s up to you, just make sure they serve to add depth to your character and tell you who your character really is.
Do you have any questions you ask of your characters? What do you do to get to know your character before writing your story? Or do you just jump in and discover your character along the way?
10 thoughts on “Creating 3D Characters: The Character Interview”
What a great link for the Mary Sue Test! 🙂 Thanks for that. Very interesting.
What a great link for the Mary Sue Test! Thanks for that. Very interesting.
I like your questions and will definitely try them when I’m doing my revision on character. I also like to find out what is in her purse if it is a female character or what is in the glove compartment or junk drawer…
Have you ever considered creating an e-book or
guest authoring on other blogs? I have a blog centered on the same topics you discuss and would love to have you
share some stories/information. I know my visitors would value your work.
If you are even remotely interested, feel free to send me an email.
I’ve done a couple of guest posts in the past, but at this current time I just don’t have the time in my schedule to do guest posting. Thank you for the offer and feel free to link back to my blog if you like.
Hi just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know
a few of the pictures aren’t loading correctly. I’m not sure why
but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different internet browsers and both show the same outcome.
They’re loading fine on my browser, not sure why they aren’t loading on your end. Thanks for letting me know.
I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you make this website yourself or did you
hire someone to do it for you? Plz answer back
as I’m looking to construct my own blog and would like to know where u got this from. cheers
It’s a WordPress theme (one of the free themes to choose from when I started my blog through WordPress). The header I made myself. Good luck creating your website.