book marketing, character building, character development, character interview, character sketch, fantasy interviews, How to conduct a character interview, interviewing fictional characters, questions to ask characters
I love interviewing my characters, especially to give those who don’t get an internal voice the chance to express themselves and provide the reader with more insight.
Coming up with a new list of questions with each new book, story, or character either becomes repetitive or draining. This often leads to endless searches on the internet.
So, instead of repeating this process each and every time I want to write a character interview, I decided to compile a list of my favorite questions from the lists I often visit.
This is going to be long, y’all.
I took a good chunk of questions from The Writing Kylie below, but she has SO many more for us get to know our characters, but I tried to pinpoint the ones I thought would work best for interview purposes instead of development. There’s even some for villains in the mix:
Do you have a motto? If so, what is it?
Do you have any annoying habits, quirks, strange mannerisms, or other defining characteristics?
How would you describe your childhood?
would you describe your childhood?
How much schooling have you had?
Did you enjoy school? If not, why did you struggle?
Where did you learn most of your skills and other abilities?
Did you have any role models? If so, describe them and why they were your role models.
How did you get along with the other members of your family?
What did you want to be when you grew up?
When and where were you the happiest?
When did you have your first kiss, and who with?
What do you consider the most important event of your life so far, why?
What is the most evil thin you have ever done so far?
Do you have a criminal record?
What is your greatest regret?
If you could change one thing from your past, what would it be and why?
Are you optimistic or pessimistic?
What is your greatest extravagance?
Do you believe in the existence of soul mates and/or true love?
What is the most evil thing a human being could do?
Under what circumstances do you find killing acceptable or unacceptable?
How do you measure success?
Have you ever been in love?
What is your most treasured possession?
Do you like to read? If so, what?
How do you spend a typical Saturday night?
What makes you life?
How do you define happiness?
How do you deal with stress?
What are your pet peeves?
Which talent would you most like to have and why?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
What three words best describe your personality?
If you have 24 hours to live, what three things would you do in the time you had left?
If you were to die and come back as a person, animal, or thing, what do you think it would be, and why?
What do you have in your pockets or purse?
What is on your nightstand?
What’s in your fridge?
These next three are from “37 Questions to Ask Your Character”:
What is your earliest memory?
On Monday morning, are you excited to go to work, or are you sad?
If you could go back in time for one day, where would you go?
The next set are from Helping Writers Become Authors. They have a nice infograph and a character interview sheet that you can print to develop your characters as well. But these are the ones I like best:
What do you like best about the main (other main) character(s)?
What do you like lease about the main (other main) character(s)?
If you could do one thing and succeed at it, what would it be?
What kind of person are you?
Who do you sympathize best with?
Here’s another chunk from Gotham Writers. They gave another few I hadn’t seen in the others:
What was your favorite journey?
What is your most marked characteristic?
Who is your favorite fictional hero?
On what occasions is it okay to lie?
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Which words and phrases do you overuse?
And another snippet from Writers Write. They, have a great, long term process for understanding your characters:
What was it like being raised about your parents?
What traditions are important to your life?
Which teacher or authority figure had the most impact on your life?
What’s your favorite quote?
Here’s Writers Write again, with another list that has a lot of personal prompts for creative nonfiction writing that inspired me:
What’s your best physical feature? Why do you like it?
Which part of school did you enjoy the most?
Would you wish upon a falling star?
What superstitions do you believe in or follow?
What was your favorite toy as a child?
What’s your favorite season?
Do you connect with your zodiac sign?
What would you tell your younger self if you could?
What would a wanted ad for your ideal roommate read like?
Can you describe your personal style?
Do you believe in fate?
What would you like to teach the world if you had a platform?
If you had to wear a sign around your neck explaining something about yourself before somebody spoke to you, what would it say?
AutoCrit offers “Four Methods For Interviewing Characters,” which has an interesting example of a free-form interview for development that also showcases the way character answer questions that may pry into topics they may not answer in an expected way:
If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do?
What impression do you make on people when they first meet you? How about after they’ve known you for a while?
What’s your idea of a good marriage? Do you think it’ll happen for you?
Do you think you turned out the way your parents expected?
What would you like your tombstone to say?
I relish an opportunity for new and non-traditional questions, and WayUp gave us a few traditional job interview questions and what their answers might be:
Batman vs Spiderman: Who Would Win?
In what ways are you lucky?
If you were a cartoon character, which one would you be and why?
If you were a crayon (or paint swatch) color, which would you be and why?
Novel Factory gives us a couple new questions amongst their Ultimate Character Questionnaire:
What would you ask a fortune teller?
If they could have a superpower, what would it be and why?
What is your favorite fairy tale?
Do you believe in redemption?
What is your favorite proverb?
What or who would you dress up as for Halloween?
Labotomy of a Writer provides a LONG list of questions with a whopping 253 questions. Here are a few I really liked from it:
Are you spontaneous or do you always need to have a plan?
What do you do when you’re bored?
What time of day or night is your favorite?
What do you think about being supernatural? Is it cool or have you been screwed?
Do you have a mentor? Describe them.
What is something you had to learn during your training that you hated?
How would you convince the opposing side to join your team if you could?
What would you wish for if you found a genie?
What time period would you live in if you could?
These come from Roleplaying Tips’ Mother of all Character Questionnaires. This has a lot more fantasy-based world and character building questions as well:
Do you have a notorious or celebrated ancestor?
Do you have a parton Deity?
Do you enjoy “roughing it,” or are you a creature of comfort?
How do you feel about the government (rulers) in general? Why?
If your features were destroyed beyond recognition, is there any other way of identifying your body?
Would you rather questions also make for interesting answers from questions, but it’s best to sprinkle these amongst others rather than having a 20-question volley with your character.
And finally, since we’re on the topic, here’s one last great resource of questions for fantasy world building from Patricia C. Wrede that is just massive, and I couldn’t do it better justice if I tried.
So, there it is. My list of questions. Stay tuned for part two, where I elaborate on how I choose questions for characters, how I answer them, ways to create a scene or indicate movement during an interview.
Got a favorite question that I missed on my list? Leave it for us in the comments below.