Character Profile – Interview

For some, the brevity of the previous template may not provide enough fuel for thought. You also might be looking for a template that assists in your creation of the character, rather than a simple outline of the main parts. For those who are struggling, here’s an interview you can have with your character to help you with creating your character. This interview comes from a class I had under the tutelage of Jacqueline Lawton and as such, I give the credit to her. Jacequeline Lawton is a playwright and astounding in both her passion and insight. If one has a chance to pick up her works or hear her speak, I recommend it.

In answering this interview, more is better. You can always trim the fat away in your piece, but it’s best to know as much about your character as you possibly can.

The following is paraphrased and adapted (slightly) from plays to work for most pieces of fiction.

The Character Interview:

Interview your characters. Make the answers up if they are not obvious in the piece. Family and personal history are things that may be in the piece.

Family/Personal History

  1. When and where as your character born?
  2. Who are your character’s parents?
    • Are they living or dead? If living, do they get along?
    • Are they in the piece? If so, what are they like?
  3. Does your character have children?
    • If not, do they want children?
    • If so, do they get along? Did they want to have children?
  4. Does your character have any siblings? If so, are is your character the oldest, youngest, or somewhere in between?
  5. Does your character have many friends? Any enemies?
  6. Is your character married, divorced, engaged or single? What is that like?
  7. What is your character’s religious affiliation? Devout or not? Loyally observant of rituals, feasts, spirituality, etc. or not?
  8. What is your character’s educational background?
  9. What is your character’s work experience?
  10. Who is your character’s best friend? Why?
  11. Who is your character’s enemy? Why? Do they present danger (physical or emotional) to character?
  12. Describe one or two childhood experiences that determine or explain the character now. (You might not use these incidents in the story, but they will help you to understand the character’s motivations).

Secrets/Fears/Wishes:

  1. Name one secret your character has never admitted to anyone.
  2. Name one of your character’s deepest fears.
  3. If your character had 3 wishes, what would they be?

Everyday Life:

  1. Sloppy or neat?
  2. Selfish or giving?
  3. What makes your character laugh?
  4. What makes your character cry?
  5. What annoys your character most in the world?
  6. What is one thing they would like to change about themselves?

Style and Fashion:

  1. Favorite song?
  2. Favorite food?
  3. Favorite book?
  4. Favorite movie?
  5. Favorite TV show or cartoon?
  6. Favorite color?

Psychological traits

Habits- smokes, drinks, takes drugs (legality?)?

How do they see themselves?

How do others view them?

Do they have a sense of humor or not? If so, what kind?

How does your character react under pressure?

Can the character see their own faults? Are they capable of self reflection and introspection?

Is your character self-contained, or are they easily influenced by outside forces?

Is your character educated in worldly things or ways? Is this a positive or negative effect on their life and attitudes?

What is your character’s attitude towards money and material things, or lack thereof?

The Character’s Journey:

What is your character’s journey through the piece?

What are they trying to achieve by the end of the piece?

Who or what is in the way of that goal?

 

Don’t worry if you can’t answer all of these questions. Think of them as a helpful guideline, showing you what you need to work on to make your characters seem more realistic.

Have you ever interviewed a character before? Did something work or not work? Let me know in the comments below!

Advertisements

The Argument For: Vomiting Out Words

Tomorrow is for editing. Today is for writing.

The blank page is a foreboding and terrifying thing. Part of its terror is that we often count our writing in terms of words and pages and often we are forced to stare at vast empty white as the time we have to spend on it slowly fades away.

There’s also a strange sensation for writers, where we seek, on the first try, to write the most completely profound and intelligent sentences that are so beautiful, angels sweep down from on high, and escort us personally to Heaven, where God congratulates us on our prose. This has not and will not ever happen. Yet each time I sit down, I wonder if today is the day that I’ll find out the existence of the Creator.

This is destructive behavior. If you are writing, you are a writer. If you aren’t writing, you’re not. It’s as simple as that. Staring at an empty page either in fear or focus is not writing. Some call this writer’s block. I call it procrastination.

I’d like to introduce something called automatic writing. Many of you have likely heard of this already, but it is essentially spending a few minutes writing non-stop. You do not edit. You do not delete. You do not punctuate. You just keep going, even if you’re writing I don’t know a dozen times. If you’re typing, close your eyes or turn off the monitor. Now you’re writing!

There’s another reason to do this. Your mind is stronger than you realize, and it often works on problems during the day. If you’ve ever had a profound idea in the shower, this is part of it. You’re doing something that allows you to focus without thinking directly about it.

And finally, it’s far simpler to work with a piece that’s already there. Editing is a slow and diligent process, but it’s infinitely easier to edit something that already exists (even if it’s crap) than to try and write a perfect novel into being (especially if it’s crap). Remember, in order to be great at something, you first have to be bad at it.

Writing is a discipline. And if you find yourself staring at a page far too often, trying to figure out what comes next, then stop thinking and just write. Tomorrow is for editing, today is for writing.

 

The Frozen Exile – Part 1

The air stabbed at his lungs with tiny knives. His breaths came in short gasps. The snow crunched and sank below his foot. He didn’t care anymore if the ground gave way and cast him into a crevasse, as then he would be free from the blizzard that was threatening to bury him. Snow battered him, violent and sadistic, clinging and covering its brethren to stop him. The first flakes were long melted into his clothes, turning them sopping wet. A wet that was now well into its way to refreezing, cracking with each movement.

A gust of wind from behind knocked him to his knees, bringing more snow, and blinding him. He couldn’t see much past his extended hand, and didn’t have the energy to stand. He crawled on all fours, grasping through the snow for a hint of purchase to drag him along. His hands were long numb.

Suddenly, in the snow, his fingers closed around what felt like a rock. Knowing how scarce something that wasn’t snow and ice was, he pulled at it with both arms. Bursting out was a small, but thick root. It looked like a baby’s hands with too many fingers. The root was a Dob, a starchy tuber that grew across the frozen wastes. It had a small brown shoot that extended only a little above the ground, but down below it grew freely. Fully mature dobs could be peeled and eaten raw or boiled until the skin sloughs off. However, the younger the dob is, the thicker its skin, making it impossible to get to the nutritious meat.

His hunger overruled any higher brain process, and he rose the dob to his lip and gnashed at the skin. He gnarled and bit until his gums bled. He closed his eyes, trying and hoping to get inside the root. And when the sun rose, it shown on his frozen corpse, the dob still clutched in his hands.

Character Profile – Template

Just found out this didn’t schedule properly, sorry for the delay! – Mack

 

For the first two Character posts, rather than displaying a created character (as would normally be done), I’d like to explain the profiles I’ll be using for the characters. There’ll also be an interview that you can use with your own characters next week.

Each character will have three paragraphs dedicated to them. The first paragraph will describe their physicality. It should cover their physical features, particularly anything that could uniquely define them. It should also list the types of clothes they wear, paying attention to colors and lengths. For example, someone wearing a blue hoodie that fits them versus a navy hoodie that is a size too large.

The second paragraph should cover their behavior. Pretend you are watching your character walk down the street. How do they behave? Do they naturally move away from someone walking in the other direction? Do they drag their feet? Do they lead with their nose? Do they look down at the ground? This can also note specific actions that the character would take, like smoking a cigarette or checking their pockets.

The third paragraph focuses on the character’s worldview. This is a combination of their personality, but also how they see and interact with others around their environment. Are they miserly? Do they fear the world or are they brazen against it?

If you have a question about this template or have one that you prefer, please leave a comment down below!

The Argument For: The Function Character

No character should be two-dimensional. At the same time, it’s not feasible for every character to have a fully fleshed out backstory. Not only will you never finish your work, no reader would be able to withstand going through the encyclopedia that would be your book. This is why we categorize our characters. You have your main cast, featuring protagonist, best friends, romantic leads, antagonists, and so on. You also have your supporting cast, who don’t get as much attention, but are there for a few good reasons (looking at you, Neville Longbottom). Then you have your background characters, who are used in the same way as furniture: to set the scene without being disruptive. After all, how exciting can an empty dance club be? Yet there is a role that some characters fulfill, where they are not quite background but they don’t do enough to be considered supporting. I think, then, that these characters deserve their own category called “the function character”.

The name comes from both math and coding. A function is a self-contained piece that can brought up just about anywhere. The function receives an input, or a piece of information, and does something to it to create an output, the processed information. For example, you could have a function that takes a number and adds three to it. Then, no matter what number you put in, you’ll get back a number that’s three higher. Functions can and usually are far more complex than that. So how does this apply to writing?

Let’s say you have a store clerk that your main character goes to every day for lunch. The exchange is usually standard. The clerk asks if they found everything okay, mentions the weather, takes money and gives back change. The clerk, as this point, is mostly a background character. However, let’s say the main character begins to strike up a conversation outside of the norm with the clerk. Or, maybe, the main character has forgotten their wallet when they go to pay. Suddenly, the clerk has a different output. Not because the clerk has changed personalities or gone through a journey, but because the clerk has received a different input from the character.

The function character doesn’t have to be an elevated background character. The trope of a wise old man reflecting on his life and inspiring meaning to the main character is a function character (in addition to being a coincidence [Watch for a future blog on coincidences!]). A sheriff who appears on screen solely to provide key plot information is also a function character. The function character can appear for a longer period of time as well, serving to showcase a main character’s shift of behavior (a good character becoming bad and vice versa). The function character doesn’t need a complex illustrated backstory, and it doesn’t necessarily have to serve a single function. In fact, by having your function character serve multiple purposes, it can give the illusion of complexity when all it does is help you plug holes in your story.

You’ll find that I prefer the less is more approach to writing, and identifying function characters is how I keep low, yet impactful word counts. I’m not dedicating words to descriptions of new characters that appear only briefly, nor contributing to deus ex machina solutions. The writing feels cohesive and focused when I get rid of random bystanders shouting one off lines, and my supporting characters have a chance to feel unique (even if they aren’t doing too much).

What function characters have you seen or heard of? Do any exist in your writing? Do you have any questions about function characters or writing in general? Join the discussion in the comments below!

The Shifting Lands

Behold, the planet. Behold its forms. Behold its ever-shifting landmasses. Behold its roiling oceans and rivers. Behold its mountains, present and not. Instant to instant, this planet changes. Behold as you fall to it. Feel the air whirling past. See the birds, dinosaurs, dragons, planes, and spacecraft that fly past, all there and not there. Feel the storms that rage, unburdened by the land.

See the ground come closer. Look at fields covered in wild grass. See seas of trees, forests that extend miles past. See the deserts and their waves of sand. Look at the jungle. How far do its trees rise? See the small settlements of people. See their large metropolises that claw defiantly to the sky. See the grey concrete monoliths rise up around you. The ground is close.

The people go about their life. Different shapes, size, colors. All are different. All are same. They stand and shift into each other. They walk about, preoccupied with their lives. They work. They live. They die.

The ground is near. It rushes to meet you. Will you land on soil? Stone? Sand? Snow? Will you plunge deep, deep into the oceans? Will the roof of a building sprout beneath your feet? Or will something pluck you from the air as you go sailing past? Be ready, for anything, as you will land in a world that is as wholly unique as yourself, and you will be its sole constant. You are the only one that can set the laws.

Genesis

Raven made the world and the waters with beats of his wings. – Inuit Creation Myth

This blog is aimed at writers or role players who desire places or settings to set their characters into. Each post is aimed at creating a world or scene with which to explore and investigate. Some will take the form of vignettes or descriptions, others might be short stories. The important thing is to remember that technically speaking, all of these instances take place in the same world. That is to say, they are all canon. However, not everything that is posted will be true. Some might be stories. Others are outright lies. I will never say what truly exists or what doesn’t, that is up for those who choose to borrow scenes and worlds that I write.

Blog updates and current schedule will be as follows. Any updates on the schedule will be put in a new post.

Monday – New World or Scene posted

Wednesday – Writing Talk

Friday – Character Profile

Saturday- Weekly Requests

Sprinkled somewhere amongst those will probably be some personal blogs here and there, but for now I’m going to keep those down to a minimum.

I look forward to sharing with everyone!