Creating richer, more complex characters

A few weeks ago, several of my writer friends got together for Live Character Interviews, where we assumed the persona of our protagonist and got barraged with questions on our past, our motivations, our fears, and our hopes. We had no idea how helpful this exercise would be when we sat around a large table at a coffee shop with printouts of our character questionnaires, but by the time we were through, we realized that when they're under fire, our characters sometimes say things we don't expect. 
I strongly urge writers who are drafting their novels to try it in a small group. Have each writer prepare a list of basic traits as a springboard for the discussion. As you articulate what your character is feeling, thinking, and rationalizing, you'll get to know him or her better, and that person you thought you knew so well just might surprise you, adding depth to your characterization and authenticity to your story.

Here's the character questionnaire we used. We made a copy for each author who participated, so we could scan each list and formulate questions for the characters.

Character Interview

Author Name:
Title of Book:

Name of Protagonist:
Childhood hometown:
Current town and brief description (location, size):
Job or primary occupation:
Body style:
Hair color
Skin tone:
Eye color:
Distinguishing features:
Religious leaning:
Political orientation:
Sexual orientation:

Overall goal in the novel:
Briefly state the plan to achieve this goal:
External obstacles to this goal:
Internal obstacles to this goal:
Primary rival:
Primary ally:

Most embarrassing moment as a child:
First love/how it ended:
Most shameful secret:
How feels about parents:
Dream career/occupation/way to spend time:
What actions, if any, to try and achieve dream:
Biggest tangible fear (i.e. spiders, public speaking):
Biggest internal fear (i.e. death, loss, exposure):
Bad habits:
Promiscuity level/view of sex:

The most important way the character will change over the course of the novel:

Writing is a lonely business. Doing character interviews can get you out and talking to other writers (Don’t know any? Try Plus you can invite your characters to the party and know them better too.

Guest post by DD Roy, author of Jinnie Wishmaker. 

D.D. Roy wrote her first story "Blackie and the Garbage Dump Dogs" when she was in elementary school. As a teen, she tried to destroy her little hand-made books, but if you get a chance to meet D.D.'s mom, she will whip out the one surviving copy, still to D.D.'s total embarrassment.

Her first middle grade novel, JINNIE WISHMAKER, became a Hot New Release on the Nook, and was re-released as a hardcover School Library Edition through Casey Shay Press in spring 2012. Her story book app for the iPad, DUST BUNNIES: SECRET AGENTS, just came out in May through Polycot Labs.

The author is offering the following prizes to randomly drawn commenters during the tour (this is an international contest): 

As a tie in to Jinnie Wishmaker, each blog will have two Magical Mood Rings to give away. Mood rings are a central item in the book as it is how the Troubled Tweens determine if a new member has a magical power or not. Very fun!

For the grand prize, Casey Shay Press is offering their bestselling balloon animal kit. It includes the paperback book Kids Show Kids How to Make Balloon Animals (for the same age group as Jinnie Wishmaker) as well as a professional pump and balloons.

So I encourage you to follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here:


  1. What a great idea for getting new ideas for your books.

  2. The funny thing about our character interviews is that some people were playing the role of someone TOTALLY different from who they really were. It's pretty hilarious to hear a 60-year-old man talk in Valley Speak, or a delicate young woman turn into a serial killer.

    Thank you for hosting me!


I love to hear from you. So feel free to comment, but keep in mind the basics of blog etiquette — no spam, no profanity, no slander, etc.

Thanks for being an active part of the Writers and Authors community.