20 Questions (or maybe 10)

When the urge to write appears, I want to be ready to take advantage of that early fire to the fullest extent possible. The first flush of creativity makes the words fly forth from my fingertips and I’m on top of the world (whichever world I happen to be writing in). Inevitably, the words slow, my plot strays, and I’m left wondering, who are these people that I’m writing about? Sure, they reveal themselves while I’m writing, but I’d rather not have to rewrite an entire piece because halfway through a novel I realize that the hero is claustrophobic or the heroine’s overbearing father is the real root of her fear of commitment.

Moments of revelation serve me better when they deepen characters that I’m already familiar with instead of derailing the whole story. To help prevent those moments of, “I wish I had known that earlier,” I’m considering doing the following exercise before each piece. I’m going to take my hero and my heroine, and I’m going to interview them together in a room in my imagination. I’ll ask them the same questions, and let them hear each others’ responses. And I’m going to write the whole thing down.

Maybe they’ll hit it off. Maybe they’ll hate each other, but have an undeniable attraction. Maybe we’ll all realize that these two were just not meant to be together (that has happened to me before). I’d rather know before I begin to write their story. Seeing the characters’ reactions to the questions, and even more important, their reaction to each others’ answers, will give me key information in developing them on the page. And writing down the whole scene, well, that’s a pretty good warm-up for writing the piece.

It’s important to me that there are reasons that my characters fall in love. I want to find the seeds of that love somewhere in this exercise. Here are the questions I’ve come up with so far:

  1. What sort of locale did you grow up in?
  2. Was/is your family close?
  3. What do you do in your spare time?
  4. Do you want kids, and if so, how many?
  5. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
  6. What is your favorite trait in yourself?
  7. What is your favorite trait in others?
  8. What are you looking for out of life?
  9. What do you want to avoid?
  10. Who has been the most important person in your life up to this point?

What questions would you ask your characters?

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