top of page

Interview Your Characters

Keep asking your character questions until you are confident of the answers.

 As a journalist for over 25 years, I’ve interviewed a lot of people about their work, their private lives, illnesses, prison sentences, interests, favourite places and challenges they’ve faced.

Whenever possible I do an interview face to face as you can tell as much from someone’s facial expressions and body language as you can from the words they use. There’s also a lot that can be read into someone’s home, if that’s where the interview takes place, just as there are clues to their personality in the clothes they wear, the books on their shelves and how they interact with anyone else present.

I gather as much information as I can to illustrate the angle of the feature I’m writing but I also make a note of everything else I see, hear or glean from rooms, books, clothes and conversations, because I can write more confidently about someone when I have a strong sense of who they are.

The same approach is essential when creating a character for a novel. You know what your story is about (the angle) and which parts of this new character will be key to telling the story and moving the plot forwards. But, to write well – for it to be a smooth process – you need to know everything about them, how they will react in different situations, what clothes they will wear, where they live, how they’ll talk to colleagues, friends and strangers.

Many of these facts won’t appear in your finished novel, but you’ll arrive at The End so much more quickly and without having to do so much editing, if your main protagonist’s behaviour is consistent, if her background and backstory make sense of her present-day actions, if you know her motivations, desires and weak spots.

Sticking with the journalism theme, interview your character. Ask her how she’s going to act in each scene. Make sure she tells you about her few flaws – perfect characters aren’t believable – and the bad choices she’s made before your story takes place.

One of the issues that comes up again and again when I edit novels is the protagonist’s voice not being strong enough to carry 300 pages of story. That voice is always easier to write when you have a complete understanding of your character. Ask yourself not only who your character is but how they come across to a reader who has never met them before. These two points can often differ dramatically.

If you’d like to work on character building, I have a number of workshops that will help you create an engaging and believable character from scratch. Send me an email if you’d like to book a session.



bottom of page