Monday, May 24, 2010

Interrogating your character

My college creative writing class forced me to buy The Writing habit: Essays by David Huddle. I've avoided looking at it for ten years because I vaguely remember it being a dull and useless thing, but I cracked it today and rediscovered the gold mine of questions in Huddle's character interview.

Do you want to know your character better than just eye and hair color? Well, now you can! Ask your character over for a social visit, sit them down on your sofa, offer then a nice snack and soda, and fire away.

1. What are your tastes in: music, books, painting, sports, cars, foods, films, plants, furniture, houses, politics, magazines, appliances? What are you passionate about?
2. What is your attitude toward your parents? Tell me a conversation you've had with your mom. And one with your dad. What objects do you associate with each one (i.e. ironing board, pocket knife)? What circumstances get you thinking about your parents these days? Tell me about your dreams where they show up.
3. Describe three events that were of particular significance to you during preschool and/or grade school.
4. Same thing with High School.
5. What was the absolute best thing to happened to you before you turned 18? The absolute worst?
6. What are your attitudes towards: money, opposite sex, food, violence, animals, and insanity?
7. What habits or physical characteristics in others do you find attractive or charming? Which ones do you find repulsive?
8. What are your ambitions in life? What are the biggest obstacles to success with those ambitions?
9. How do you think and act when you are:
     A. Alone
     B. In a comfortable place with close friends
     C. In a strange city
     D. At a wedding
     E. ...funeral
     F. ...Christmas
     G. In a terrifying situation
     H. In an awkward situation
     I. When you feel affectionate
     J. ...angry
     K. ...afraid
     L. When you are offered hostility
     M. ...insanity
     N. ...affection
     O. In the presence of children
10. What do you not like about yourself? Physical aspects, habits, character flaws...
11. What do you fantasize about? If you could instantly and magically change one thing about your life, what would it be?
12. Tell me about some of the jobs you've had. Especially the unusual ones.
13. What kind of problems do you have when you deal with other people? Why do you think you have those problems?

What questions do you ask your character? What do you know about them that doesn't necessarily show up in the story?


  1. This is a great list! I think about most of these things with my characters, although I've never written down the answers before.

    One thing that I almost always know about my characters, but doesn't show up in the story is what happens next. I can pretty much tell you where all my characters are for several years after their stories end. Is that nutty? I think that might be nutty.

    - Liz

  2. Doing this with my M.C. and having a blast! Thanks for posting this!