Friday, November 4, 2016

The Hard-Hitting Interview: Developing Characters by Becoming Them

A common bit of writing advice is to really "be" your character: to look at the world as if through your character's eyes.

What better way to do that than to truly "be" our characters for a while? Today, we did just that. Writing partners interviewed each other...but the person who answered the questions? It wasn't the student. Instead, they answered as their main character.

At the end of workshop today, I called my students back up to the carpet, reminding them to sit next to their writing partners. As they came up to our meeting area, I passed out a sheet with 10 interview questions, which also included space for notes.

I asked partners to quickly determine who would take on which role first: the interviewer or the interviewee. I projected a slide that explained the role of each person:

I told my writers that they'd each have five minutes to interview. Interviewers could just go down the list of questions, but they could ask questions in whatever order they'd like. They might not get to ask all of their questions, because they also needed to jot down some info based on the answers they got.

Interviewees needed to really "become" their character and push themselves to answer the questions as if they really were their character. I reminded them that they may need to think on the fly for some of these answers! But even their "off the cuff" responses might reveal something new about their character that they hadn't considered before.

With the groundwork laid, we were ready to ask the hard-hitting questions.

During this time, the room was awash with talk and laughter. Interviewers were scribbling down answers quickly, noting the most important parts of each response. Interviewees were deep in thought, trying to craft an answer that best captured the heart of the character they had spent so much time getting to know.

At the end of the interviews, I had partners switch papers. Each writer walked away from workshop time today with a list of information that revealed new aspects of their characters. I know that they'll be looking back on these interview questions as they put these characters into action.

As we move forward with drafting our stories next week, I'll be reminding myself and my writers the value of truly becoming our characters.


  1. I love this idea! I plan to use with our creative writing coming up.

  2. Nice! How did students know what character to become? Did this come from stories read in class, or were they asked to create their character?

  3. They created this character for their realistic fiction stories!