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Sunday, April 17, 2022

Donna Schlachter Shares Tips on Writing Characters

Interview Your Characters 

Guest Post By Donna Schlachter


"Getting to know you, getting to know all about you. . . " 


When I sit down to create characters for a new project, this tune runs through my head. This is one truth writers ought to embrace: we need to know our characters better than anybody in our book does. Better than our readers will know them by the time they finish reading. 


Donna Schlachter Shares Tips on Writing Characters

If we don't know our characters, we'll tend to write flat, one-dimensional people, like paper dolls who are simply wearing an outfit called "their story", and are as interchangeable as--well, a paper doll. 


Another danger in not knowing our characters is we'll write three chapters getting to know them, wasting paper and the reader's time as we plow our way through their back story, their history, until we finally get to the point where our story really starts, about halfway through Chapter 4. 


There are many methods to get to know your characters. Some of these require you to sit down and fill out a questionnaire that would cause most of us to lose our minds or at the very least, our excitement about our stories. While the details and minutiae of these questionnaires might work for some, many of us will struggle to answer what our character's third grade teacher said that made him decide to become a private investigator twenty years later. 


Bored with filling out forms, making up answers to questions I hadn't even thought of, and wanting to get on with the process of writing, I came up with a faster and more direct way to get to know my characters--I interview them. 


I pretend I'm a famous talk show host and my character is a guest on my show. As a famous talk show host, I know everybody in the world will want to hear what I have to say and how I can make my character squirm on live TV. So I come up with questions will cause said squirming because I know how the story goes and what secrets my character is trying to keep. 


Go ahead. Be catty. Be devious. Dig up the dirt. What would someone who reads one of those supermarket tabloids want to know about your character? And why would your character not want to tell the truth, not want to break a confidence, not want you to know everything about them? 


Because characters are real people, and real people rarely tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. 


Even good people hide some things, hold back some things, try to make themselves look good perhaps at the expense of another. 


Here is a list of questions I typically ask to get started: 

1. How did you get the job you have? 

2. What's your background that qualified you for that job? 

3. Tell me about ___________ (the inciting incident in the book). 

4. Tell me about ___________ (could be the love interest, the villain, the hero/heroine. Whoever is making this character's life difficult or messy in some way) 

5. Tell me about ____________ (whatever you know your character doesn't want to talk about. A past hurt, a secret, a rumor, an innuendo – anything that will make it look like this character isn't telling all) 

6. Bring up a topic that's in the news now, and tie it into this character and the plot in some way. For example, if the character is a forest ranger, and poaching by forest rangers is in the news, ask what he thinks should be done to poachers and then what should be done to poachers who are also guardians of the woodland. Watch him squirm. 

7. Ask what the character sees in his/her future. 


By the time you ask and your character answers these questions, you should have a good idea of what motivates your character, what scares your character, what your character is trying to hide and why, the lie your character believes, what the internal and external conflicts are, and the growth arc of your character. 


Takeaway: Finding out your character's deepest secret so you can blab it across the pages of your book is a good thing. 



1. Choose one character from your current work in progress and interview him/her. 

2. What questions didn't he/she want to answer? Why? Add this to your back story for this character. 

3. How can another character capitalize on knowing this information? Does this change your story in some way? Write in that new plot line.




A hybrid author, Donna writes squeaky clean historical and contemporary suspense. She has been published 50 times in books; is a member of several writers groups; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, traveling extensively for both. 


www.DonnaSchlachter.com Stay connected so you learn about new releases, preorders, and presales, as well as check out featured authors, book reviews, and a little corner of peace. Plus: Receive a free ebook simply for signing up for our free newsletter!


Check out previous blog posts at www.HiStoryThruTheAges.wordpress.com and www.AllBettsAreOff.wordpress.com

Facebook: www.Facebook.com/DonnaschlachterAuthor

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Etsy online shop of original artwork: https://www.etsy.com/shop/Dare2DreamUS

Donna Schlachter Shares Tips on Writing Characters


 Howard-Johnson is the multi award-winning author of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. She is also a marketing consultant, editor, and author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers including the multi award-winning The Frugal Book Promoter (https://bit.ly/FrugalBookPromoIII), now offered in its third edition by Modern History Press. Carolyn's latest is in the #HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers is How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically. She has two booklets in the #HowToDoItFrugally Series, both in their second editions from Modern History Press. Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers (https://bit.ly/LastMinuteEditsII) and The Great First Impression Book Proposal (https://bit.ly/BookProposalsII) are career boosters in mini doses and both make ideal thank you gifts for authors. The one on writing book proposals is also available as an Audio Book. The Frugal Editor (https://bit.ly/FrugalEditor), now in its second edition, is the winningest book in the series. Carolyn also has three frugal books for retailers including one she encourages authors to read because it helps them convince retailers to host their workshops, presentations, and signings. It is A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques (https://bit.ly/RetailersGuide). In addition to this blog, Carolyn helps writers extend the exposure of their favorite reviews at TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com. She also blogs all things editing--grammar, formatting and more--at The Frugal, Smart, and Tuned-In Editor (https://TheFrugalEditor.blogspot.com). Learn more and follow for news on her new releases direct from Amazon at https://bit.ly/CarolynsAmznProfile.

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