Let’s chat (or visiting Loonytown)
Updated: Mar 2, 2022
I’ve been thinking about this—my first post on writing—for some time now. There are many areas I could have focused on: point of view, scene definition, character development, . . . Or I could have discussed writing tools: text editors, outliners, grammar checkers, . . . And then there’s the tsunami of information surrounding publication and marketing. Whoo!
So I asked myself: What’s most important to me? What’s the one thing that makes or breaks everything else for me as a fantasy book writer?
It wasn’t hard for me to answer the question. For me, it’s character interviews!
As an author, interesting and dynamic characters are at the heart of my writing. And the way I develop them—get to know them, if you will—is to have sit-down interviews before they even appear on the page.
I know, it sounds loony. But it works for me.
When you’re staring at the blank screen for the next scene in your book where a new character will be crawling onto the pages, it’s nice to know the character beforehand: likes and dislikes, demeanor, idiosyncrasies, speech pattern, physical build, etc.
Sure, you can use a form or just bullet it out, but spending some quality time with the character beforehand is so much more revealing. (I know, we’re now in Loonytown.)
Interviewing a character is a creative process, like writing a scene, but without all the constraints such as point of view, scene development, word selection, tempo, etc. It’s just freeform interaction. Total freedom and creativity.
Here’s an example. Let’s assume there is to be a new character in your next scene and the character is to be an elf, but you don’t know much more than that.
Q - Aren’t you tiny?
A - What’d you expect. I’m an elf, remember!
Q - Sorry. I didn’t mean anything by that. I was just surprised, that’s all. I’ve never seen an elf before.
A - (Smiles and blinks her big blue eyes.) We keep in the shadows for a reason. The dwarfs can be a rowdy bunch.
Q - You don’t like dwarfs?
A -(She removes her pointy green hat and reverently places it on the table.) Didn’t say that. Just said they’re rowdy: all that drinking and partying. Not my thing.
Q - So you’re anti-party?
A - Just think there are better ways to spend time. Don’t you?!
Q - Like what?
A - Like helping the world to be a better place!
And so on.
From that little bit I’ve learned a lot about the elf: eye color and relative size of eyes, it’s a female, she wears a pointy green hat that she favors (‘reverently places it on the table’), focused on doing good deeds, hides from view, doesn’t like the dwarfs partying, etc. —Note: This was all ‘discovered’ in the ‘interview’ process. I made no prior assumptions.
Once the interview process is done, writing the character into the scene will be much easier. You may not use all the information gleaned, but it will certainly provide a good framework.
Give it a try! You may find Loonytown is not such a crazy place to visit after all.
Ideas define us, our past, our present, and most importantly, our future.
–Last line of The Idea Miners: The Lost Lake Dig
Credit cartoon: Lazardjin / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)