Character & POV
3 min read

Should you write character interviews?

An illustrated image of a writer interviewing a character in a novel to understand their motivations better

Character interviews – a technique where writers 'interview' their characters, asking them a series of questions to understand their personalities, motivations, and backstories better. Like any tool, it has its benefits and drawbacks, which we'll explore in this article.

Benefits of writing character interviews: Unlocking your characters

Character interviews can be a boon for writers in various ways:

  • Better character understanding: By asking your characters direct questions, you can reveal aspects of their personality, backstory, and motivations that may have been unclear.
  • More complex characters: The interview process can help to create well-rounded, multi-dimensional characters.
  • Consistency: Character interviews can help avoid inconsistencies in how a character acts, thinks, or speaks.
  • Overcoming writer's block: When you're stuck, taking a break to interview a character can provide fresh inspiration.

Drawbacks of writing character interviews: Potential pitfalls

However, character interviews aren't without their drawbacks:

  • Feeling artificial: The process might feel forced and unnatural for some writers and could even come across that way to readers.
  • Risk of excessive exposition: Information from character interviews can lead to excessive 'telling' if not woven into the story subtly.
  • Potential crutch: Writers might lean too heavily on character interviews, inhibiting their ability to develop characters organically.

When to write character interviews: Timing is everything

Knowing when to use this tool can make a difference:

  • Struggling with character development: If you find it hard to flesh out a character, an interview might offer the insight you need.
  • Understanding motivations: If a character's actions aren't aligning with their motivations, an interview can help align them.
  • Battling writer's block: An interview might provide a new angle when stuck.
  • Complex narratives: For multi-layered stories with numerous characters, interviews can help keep track of each character's unique traits and arcs.

How to write effective character interviews: The technique

Here are a few tips for conducting successful character interviews:

  • Prepare questions: Think about what you want to learn from your character.
  • Stay in character: Answer each question as your character would, staying true to their voice.
  • Use the information wisely: Incorporate insights from the interview into your story naturally and subtly.

Alternatives to writing character interviews: Other options

If character interviews don't appeal to you, there are plenty of other character development methods:

  • Character profiles: Detailed write-ups of a character's traits, backstory, and motivations.
  • Scene writing: Writing random scenes with your character can reveal surprising details.
  • Balance: Remember to balance character development with plot progression and other story elements.

Is it for you?

Character interviews offer significant benefits but also come with potential pitfalls. There's no one-size-fits-all approach to writing – the key is to find the techniques that work best for you. Whether you choose to use character interviews or not, remember the goal: to create compelling, realistic characters that engage your readers and drive your story forward.