So, this is my last semester as an undergraduate in college. I’m taking classes in Creative Writing and Writing the Screenplay and by some miracle (even though they’re in different departments) they’re talking about the same things at the same time. This last week we were covering characters and character building. So now I want to share what I learned along with what I usually do while I’m writing to create a character interview and profile.
Top five reasons to do a character interview:
- It gives you an idea of who your character is, their flaws, likes, dislikes, goals, and more.
- It allows you to hear your character’s voice as they answer your questions about themselves.
- The details you learn in your interview will bleed seamlessly into your story and create a more vivid and realistic character.
- You’ll have a physical profile of your character in his or her own words.
- You’ll have a record you can go back to throughout your writing and can reference whenever you need to know something about your character.
4 Books to read about character building (Before I go any further I will say that I make no money from these links and they are not sponsored whatsoever):
- Creating Character Arcs: The Masterful Authors Guide to Uniting Story Structure, Plot, and Character Development by K.M. Weiland – K.M. Weiland is a writer whom I am very grateful to have found. Her books and workbooks have improved my writing and converted me from a certified pants-er to a plotter and I couldn’t be happier with the results. This book is newer, and I has help me to see how a character arc works and how I can use them to plot out my character.
- The Weekend Novelist by Robert J Ray – I found this book on my dad’s bookshelf when I was a kid because the edition I have is from 1994. I took it to be one of my writing bibles as a kid. Now, the entire book isn’t about creating characters but there is a section devoted to character building in the book and it taught me the first things I learned about writing characters. He speaks about a character sketch, back story, dream and dressing your character in the section entitled weeks 1-4.
- A Writer’s Guide to Characterization: Archetypes, Heroic Journeys, And Other Elements of Dynamic Character Development by Victoria Lynn Schmidt – This book is one that I acquired recently in my effort to expand my writing bookshelf. At first I thought it was odd to compare characters to archetypes like the female ones, males ones, then broken down into animal archetypes, but it makes sense as she provides specific examples and each animal and character (For the fox she uses Bilbo in The Hobbit). It provides something interesting and unique that I think helps to craft more interesting characters. It is published by Writers Digest books.
- Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints (Write Great Fiction) by Nancy Kress – This book is another fairly recent purchase that is again from Writers Digest books. What I enjoy about it is the exercises that are included at the end of each chapter to work on the concept that she talks about with character building. She also talks about how to choose the right POV for each story and how that will affect the character and use of character building exercises.
Top 5 Things I learned in Class:
- Character building is essential for all forms of writing (movies, novels, short stories)
- There are so many different ways to build character.
- It helps to have a standard form to build your characters.
- Sketching out a character’s private place is one of the best ways to learn more about your character.
- Sometimes the best way to create a believable character is to take a small detail you see somewhere and use that in the story.
Now, I’ve discussed the importance of character interviews and character building in this post. On Wednesday, I’ll post the next part of this series and have part of a sample interview that I’m using for my DFM Screenwriting class as well as a PDF for my character interviews and character sheets that I use for my stories.