06 November 2013

Writing prompt 22

Late last week I was talking to one of my coaching clients about the story she's working on. She was feeling stuck: She knew she needed to take more time with the ending, but she didn't know what to do with it. I suggested a few points where she might expand, including a conversation between two characters that we (the readers) knew had taken place but hadn't gotten to find out what was said.

"But I don't know what he said," my client confessed.

"Why don't you ask him?" I said. "I know that might sound a little crazy, but I've found that for some reason it works. You do a character interview and ask him questions about what you need to know to finish the story." I had just tried this recently, in fact, with one of my own characters. And I found that even just writing the questions got my brain tingling. And when I sat down to listen to my character's answers, they actually came. And they surprised me.

Which brings us to today's writing prompt.

Conduct a character interview.

You start by coming up with some questions you have for your character. Things about their background, values, fears, desires, what happens in the story, etc. Things you need to know but don't yet know. My questions for my character will be different from your questions for yours, but I'm going to share some sample questions here just to give you a sense. Here are some questions my client might use in her character interview, based on what I think she needs to know about the story:
  • What did you say to P. when she approached you in your shop? How did she start the conversation?
  • How did you behave toward her and why?
  • What do you need right now in your life, whether you're aware of that need or not? Can befriending P. & M. help with that?
  • After a lifetime of poor communication skills and curmudgeony, how are you going to work on opening up a little? Or are you?
  • How did you feel when your mom disappeared? Do you still think about her? Are you more interested in or more fearful about finding out what actually happened to her?
The trick, when you sit down to listen, is to write down their answers even if they don't make sense to you or go where you think they should go. When you do a character interview, you must be open to the truth, even if it makes your life more difficult.

Happy writing!

ROW80 Update
"A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life." You can find a more complete description of my goals for 2013 Round 4 here. 

1. Drafting. Still have not finished 1st draft of "Split Infinity" short story. Realizing I may have to adjust my goals to account for changes in my personal life, namely the fact that I'm trying to sell my house, which was not something I'd intended when I set my goals in the first place. Goal this week: Spent at least 30 minutes working on "Split Infinity."

2. Revising. Also have not finished revising "The Choice" for same reason. Goals this week: (a) Spend at least 30 minutes working on revision; (b) Revisit my writing project schedule and make needed adjustments.

3. Blog schedule. Mostly on track. Didn't have an interview to post on Friday so took some time instead to review what I've accomplished over the last year and a month. Missed posting on Monday but made up for it by posting about the Curious Apes launch party yesterday. This Friday I'm excited to host an interview with writer Josh Hewitt, and on Monday, instead of posting a market review, I intend to post about writing during the holidays - how to make time to write despite the insanity and how one might adjust one's goals accordingly. Am looking for writers to collaborate on this post with me - please let me know by Nov. 9th if you're interested!

4. Submitting. Nope, didn't submit anything over the weekend. Still have three submissions out, though, so that is good. Goal for this week: Submit at least one piece to at least one market. (Will go add that to my to-do list now.)

5. Rain or Shine readings. Achieved! Last week's reading was vampire-themed and featured four authors. So much fun! I have another commitment this week so will not be attending tomorrow, but next week my friend Chuck Caruso, writer of western noir, is reading with another talented noir writer, Nick Slosser. Very much looking forward to that.

6. ROW80 community. Achieved! I read & commented on 3 ROW80 posts last week. Gonna do it again this week. Hurrah!

This is a blog hop! Click here to read other ROW80 participants' check-ins.


  1. My characters don't do interviews (they're a particularly stubborn bunch!), but they do come talk to me and show me things while I'm in the shower!

    My skin tends to be dry, but my characters reveal themselves regularly, so that's to the good!

    I like that you're re-evaluating your goals in keeping with changing life circumstances. Goals shouldn't be a prison, but a support structure to carry us to our dreams.

    My solution to holiday insanity is to opt out. We focus on our immediate family unit, and we tend to like things simple and low-fuss. Since our family life is about each of us pursuing our passions, I still find plenty of writing time, even this time of the year.

    I hope your revised goals meet all your needs!

    1. Haha! And are you able to remember these shower revelations long enough to write them down? I have trouble doing that. Or when stuff comes to me when I'm on a walk or driving the car - also not convenient. Am convinced I could have taken over the world by now by enacting the brilliant ideas I've gotten while in shower, on walk, in car and then forgotten before I had a chance to write them down.

      "Goals shouldn't be a prison, but a support structure." YES! I love this!

      Thanks for sharing your strategy for writing during the holidays, Shan! Mind if I use that in my blog post? (Appropriately attributed, of course.)