I’m probably the Queen of Quick and Easy—just give me a short cut and I’ll take it. That’s why writing novels in one swift sit-down sounds so appealing—even though I’ve learned it doesn’t work for me. There’s no quick and easy when it comes to knowing my characters. Remember the old saying, you gotta live with someone before you really know him? True! It’s the same with our characters.
Often talking to my characters will set me on the right path with my book. Something about asking them questions, learning what they like or dislike reveals their personality, rounds them out, and identifies potential problems, better known as conflict.
It’s interesting to learn the different approaches writers take to reach the same destination: The End.
In one writing course I took, our instructor gave us the following list and we were to write down how we thought our character would answer. Sort of like The Newly Wed Game. 🙂 We weren’t to give it a lot of thought—just write—as if we’ve known our character for years. It’s hard to say whether such an exercise is beneficial or not, but it was fun.
My character is a 30-something wife and mom. Her name is Sas Maplewood. Whoever filled out her birth certificate wrote Sasanna instead of Susanna. They simply closed the ‘u’ and made it look like an ‘a’. Her mom hated it but her grandmother thought it was quite original, so the name Sasanna was a keeper. In school, friends nicknamed her Sas. The following is what I know about Sas Maplewood.
Sas Maplewood’s Favorite Book: Bleachers by John Grisham because it made her feel sad.
Favorite Movie: Serendipity with John Cusak because it’s fun.
Favorite Drink: Give her a vanilla milkshake any time of the day or night.
Dream vacation spot: Vacation? What’s that? Oh, DREAM vacation. Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Phobia: She might not call it a phobia, but she can’t stand for anyone to grip her wrists or touch her neck. She panics! In fact, she’ll swing first and ask questions later. Needless to say, she’s not into neck nuzzling. Just ask her husband.
Favorite saying: “Suspect everybody. . .” and that’s exactly what she teaches her kids. It’s part of her “Be a Safety Kid” lecture that she gives them every morning as she puts them on the school bus.
Pet Peeve: Telemarketers.
Necessary extravagance: Junk stores and garage sales.
Who would play her in a movie: Amy Breneman from Judging Amy.
Craziest thing she’s ever done: She writes letters to the editors of newspapers and magazines. Not really crazy except to her husband and kids.
Would like to be reincarnated as: Sas would never believe in reincarnation, but if she did she’d come back as her grandmother so she could figure out why her mother is the way she is.
Do you see any benefit to this type of character interview? Have you ever asked your characters questions and really listened to their answers?
Charles Gramlich says
You can visit short stories but you’ve gotta live with a novel.
Jessica Ferguson says
Good way to put it, Charles. I’ve never thought of it that way. 🙂
Jan Newman says
Yes, asking characters questions is very useful. It’s eye-opening. Through their answers, you tell yourself things about them you might not have uncovered otherwise–startling, wonderful and terrible things!
Jessica Ferguson says
It is eye-opening, for sure! Thanks for popping in, Jan.
Angie Kay Dilmore says
I love the movie Serendipity, too!