Would You Like Me to Interview Your Characters?

I am starting a new blog, Pat Bertram Introduces . . .  where I will be posting interviews with fictional characters. The first interview has been posted: Pat Bertram Introduces Siegfried Marggrander, close friend and brother-in-law of Gus LeGarde, of the LeGarde Mystery series, written by Aaron Lazar.

If you wish a character to be interviewed by Pat Bertram, please answer fifteen to twenty questions from the Character Questionaire Page and submit them in the comment section along with whatever links you’d like included. Be sure to answer in your character’s voice, and be sure you mention the title of the book and who wrote it. If an answer to a question is yes or no, please explain why. (Example: Do you run away from conflict? Yes. Why? I don’t like fighting. See, there was this time in third grade where I got in a fight and . . .) Feel free to include your own questions. The character interviewed does not have to be the hero. Even if you don’t want your character interviewed, you can ask your characters these questions to help you profile them.

  1. What is your story?
  2. Who are you?
  3. Where do you live?
  4. Are you the hero of your own story?
  5. What is your problem in the story?
  6. Do you have a problem the wasn’t mentioned in the story?
  7. Do you embrace conflict?
  8. Do you run from conflict?
  9. How do you see yourself?
  10. How do your friends see you?
  11. How do your enemies see you?
  12. How does the author see you?
  13. Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?
  14. What do you think of yourself?
  15. Do you have a hero?
  16. Do you have a goal?
  17. What are your achievements?
  18. Do you talk about your achievements?
  19. Do you keep your achievements to yourself?
  20. Do you have any special strengths?
  21. Do you have any special weaknesses?
  22. Do you have any skills?
  23. Do you have money troubles?
  24. What do you want?
  25. What do you need?
  26. What do you want to be?
  27. What do you believe?
  28. What makes you happy?
  29. What are you afraid of?
  30. What makes you angry?
  31. What makes you sad?
  32. What do you regret?
  33. What is your biggest disappointment?
  34. What, if anything, haunts you?
  35. Are you lucky?
  36. Have you ever failed at anything?
  37. Has anyone ever failed you?
  38. Has anyone ever betrayed you?
  39. Have you ever failed anyone?
  40. Have you ever betrayed anyone?
  41. Do you keep your promises?
  42. Are you honorable?
  43. Are you healthy?
  44. Do you have any handicaps?
  45. Do you have any distinguishing marks?
  46. What was your childhood like?
  47. Do you like remembering your childhood?
  48. Did anything newsworthy happen on the day you were born?
  49. Did you get along with your parents?
  50. What in your past had the most profound effect on you?
  51. What in your past would you like to forget?
  52. What in your past would you like others to forget?
  53. Who was your first love?
  54. Who is your true love?
  55. Have you ever had an adventure?
  56. What is the most important thing that ever happened to you? Why?
  57. Was there a major turning point in your life?
  58. Was there ever a defining moment of your life?
  59. Is there anything else about your background you’d like to discuss?
  60. What is your most closely guarded secret?
  61. What is your most prized possession? Why?
  62. Do you have any hobbies?
  63. What is your favorite scent? Why?
  64. What is your favorite color? Why?
  65. What is your favorite food? Why?
  66. What is your favorite beverage? Why?
  67. What is your favorite music? Why?”
  68. What is your favorite item of clothing? Why?
  69. Name five items in your purse, briefcase, or pockets.
  70. What are the last five entries in your check registry?
  71. What are the last three books you read?
  72. If you were at a store now, what ten items would be in your shopping cart?
  73. If you had the power to change one thing in the world that didn’t affect you personally, what would it be?
  74. What makes you think that change would be for the better?
  75. If you were stranded on a desert island, would you rather be stranded with, a man or a woman?
  76. How do you envision your future?

Creating a Character — Part III

To be real, a character must have strengths and weaknesses. I have been creating a profile for Chip, the hero of my work in progress, and I know some of his strengths: he is independent, can cope with adversity, has high ethical standards. The only weakness I know about so far is that he is distrustful of women, which women see as a failure to commit.

Strengths and weaknesses are arbitrary. Independence can become an inability to depend on others, an ability to cope can be seen as indifference, high ethical standards can become intransigency. Which is great for the book: the resulting misunderstandings can cause conflicts among characters and the plot or subplots to thicken.

I can already see that Chip’s high ethical standards and principles will be a driving force in the story. He is a vegetarian and an animal lover who will be forced to kill to feed those dependent on him. His independence, exemplified by a need for freedom, is also at stake. He will be forced to decide how much of his freedom he is willing to give up for safety, and how much of his safety he is willing to give up for freedom.

So far, I haven’t been able to come up with a special strength or weakness that would set Chip apart from any other character, but since plot and character are so closely related, this may not be a bad thing. It does no good to assign a special strength or weakness to a character if it is not going to be tested during the story, and I don’t want to Chip to be constrained by a particular trait before he even begins his adventures. If he needs a special strength, I will write it in when necessary. The great thing about writing is that we are not stuck with what is past. We can always go back and recreate it to answer present needs.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if life outside the pages of our novels worked that way?

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