Character interviews usually fall into the category of tools that help writers. It’s a fun and lively exercise unless your characters aren’t feeling chatty. There’s nothing quite as gloomy as a day when your imaginary friends won’t talk to you.
It’s a pretty set up: you’ve got the pen and paper or computer ready. The tea is steeping or the coffee brewing. You’ve even set out a tray of warm cookies, and yet you find yourself alone. What can a writer do when a character won’t be enticed into the interview chair?
First off, don’t panic. Some characters, even those who are bold on paper, are shy about answering direct questions posed by the writer. I suggest you try the easy questions first to see if any response is forthcoming. Middle name, favorite color, and pet questions are a few safe starting points.
Still nothing? Then turn your attention to the character’s best friend. Did the dog steal the baby sister’s doll way back when, or did your hero use the doll to teach the dog to fetch? No one remembers those juicy stories with as much relish as a best friend and if those best-bud answers don’t show the hero in the fairest light, well then, the truth must be offered.
What? The hero doesn’t care about the doll and dog thing because the baby sister forgave him long ago? No worries – keep your finger away from the panic button – threaten to call the baby sister for confirmation.
If that (or a comparable scenario) didn’t work, try taking a look in the mirror – figuratively or literally. Just do a quick check to make sure you’re not telegraphing your own insecurities. Everyone has hot buttons and things we don’t want to talk about, just as everyone has a passion of some sort. Try dialing the interview to your character’s strength or pet project and see where that leads you.
Still getting the brush off? Then you’ve got one rude or introverted character – but you probably already knew that. Try going back to the manuscript and working from an intense conversation involving the main character. Frame a series of questions based on that scene and see if you can break the silence.
If all that fails, eat those cookies – you’ve earned ‘em! And remember: it’s only your fictional world that hinges on the answers…
Live the adventure!