amwriting, character interview, children's writing, picture book author, picture book illustrators, picture book manuscripts, work in progress

Character Interview

Why do it? What is it?

A character interview is an exercise that allows you to get to know your character through and through. Using questions you can learn how your character would react in any situation that comes their way.

As story tellers we place our characters in a setting and situation of our own devising, which is all well and good, but can be limiting. To create a character that lives on in the mind of the reader, that character has to be relatable, flawed, and has to affect the reader. One way of getting to know your character is by having your character answer a bunch of interview questions you’ve posed to them. It’s a great way to step outside your own thoughts about your character and get inside the head of your character so they can provide their own answers.

I often will write paragraphs about my character defining who they are all while thinking how they would react in a variety of situations. It helps me to keep my character’s consistency throughout the entire story. Presently, I’m lucky enough to have a picture book manuscript, Neveah’s Wonders, in consideration for publication. It’s a story about the concept of the seasons, as told from the perspective of a pre-school age little girl who is blind. When I came up with the idea for the story, I came up with the concept first, then the character. I thought about how my character, Neveah ,would react to the world around her. Here are a list of some simple questions I asked.

What’s your favorite sound? “My mommy’s singing. What’s yours?” asked Neveah.

Do you like the feeling of things that are hard? squishy? sticky? or soft? “I like things that are hard and smooth. Squishy soft things are yucky.” said Neveah.

What don’t you like? “I don’t like tags. Mommy cuts them off from my clothes. Do you have a tag in your shirt?” asked Neveah.

What’s your favorite thing to do? “Go on my swing when its sunny outside. Do you like the sun? I like how it feels on my eyelids. I like to play with my toy phones too. I have five of them. One plays music, one records, one has big buttons, one buzzes and one beeps. Do you have a phone? What sounds does it make? Can I hear it?” said Neveah.

Where is your favorite place to be? “I like to sleepover at my Nana’s. Do you sleep over at your Nana’s?” asked Neveah.

Do you have a favorite food? “Rice Krispies. I like it when they pop when you pour milk on them. Do you like Rice Krispies?” asked Neveah.

Just from the way she answered the questions I knew my character would be consistently curious. She would question everything she came across as she experienced the world and she’d be interested in all that she sensed.

My manuscript is a concept book and so my character Neveah shares her perspectives on what each of the seasons means to her, but my interview allowed me to experience her more fully and it helped me to create a character that readers can better relate to.

If you’re creating a picture book with the classic story structure of a character who has a want as well as a need and has to work through obstacles to achieve that want and or need Pixar has some great online lessons they offer. I came across a video, 4 Things Pixar Always Does to Create Memorable Characters, when I was thinking about this post. PIxar and Storybinder put it together. Check it out. It’s short and to the point. I think you’ll like it.

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