Thursday, May 3, 2018

Interviewing Your Characters and GMC

Show of hands - who here has filled out a character interview sheet before they start writing? I definitely have not - yet. But I've been reading Debra Dixon's GMC: Goals, Motivation and Conflict (which is brilliant, by the way - even for someone 10 books into this whole writing thing) and she talks a lot about building the character interview into your writing process. According to Dixon (and I agree), it helps to give you a firm grasp the characters' goals and motivations, and how they're going to respond to conflict -- all of which help you build a great story.

The foundation of every great novel, regardless of genre, is conflict. If you have a weak conflict, readers feel like they're being led along a path for no real reason. Even in romance with its guaranteed happily-ever-after, your main character (MC) must face conflict - whether it's accidentally falling for her brother's roommate or an off-limits office romance.

Ok, I see you nodding and thinking, "But how does knowing whether my MC likes dogs add to the potential for conflict within my story?" Well, let's just say you're writing science fiction and your MC had a dog back when he was kid, which was a very long time ago. He and his friends are being shot at by rebel forces and about to board their space ship to escape the hostile planet, when MC sees a dog limping into a cave twenty feet away. MC makes a split-second decision to grab the dog and take it with them, but doing so means he's under enemy fire. And the crew now have a dog onboard - who's limping along and definitely worse for the wear. Imagine the conflict this can create amongst the crew! Now, the dog isn't the central plot point or conflict (it could be, but in my imaginary story it's not), but it can be used as a plot device to help drive the main conflict - which in this case might be something along the lines of: MC is a rogue and his superiors expect him to fall in line b/c he's putting everyone in danger otherwise. Case in point? You guessed it. Dog.

Here are 25 more great character interview questions:


  1. It's Monday morning. Are you excited to go to work/school or sad?
  2. What do you normally eat for breakfast?
  3. Do you call your mother or text? How often?
  4. Do you iron your clothes? Who does your laundry?
  5. Do you exercise or are you happy to sit on the couch? If you exercise, what's your favorite way to exercise?
  6. Have you ever played a team sport? If you no longer play, why not?
  7. What is your favorite TV show?
  8. How do you typically spend your Friday night?
  9. What do you do when you're bored?
  10. How many hours/day do you work/go to school?
  11. What would you be embarrassed for people to know about you?
  12. If you go to a party, do you prefer to talk to people you already know or meet new people?
  13. What do you drink during the day? Water? Coffee? Ice Tea? Beer? Nothing?
  14. What kind of books do you read? If you don't read books, do you read magazines, newspapers, or online content?
  15. If a stranger rings your doorbell, do you answer it or do you wait in the kitchen until they leave?
  16. What is your favorite food?
  17. If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
  18. How many siblings do you have? Are you close or estranged?
  19. Do you have a pet? If so, what kind?
  20. What would be your perfect gift to receive?
  21. What do you like best about yourself?
  22. What do you like least about yourself?
  23. How long have you known your best friend?
  24. You're stuck waiting in an unexpectedly long line. How do you react? What do you do while you're waiting?
  25. What is one color you think looks great on you and why?
These are only the tip of the iceberg of questions you can use to "interview" your characters, so I'm curious -- if you do a pre-writing character interview, what kinds of questions do you ask your characters?



6 comments:

Carrie Beckort said...

Great list, Brenda! I haven't done a character interview to this level of detail (but I should at least try it sometime), but I do think about what emotions drive my characters along with what emotional state they are currently in. That helps me determine how they'd react to various situations.

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