How to Get to Know Your Main Character – Part 1

To write with authenticity, you need to get inside your main character’s head. You need to know how they will react to certain people and circumstances. You need to know how they would handle adversity and what makes them who they are.

The first thing I do is interview my main character. You can even find a picture of your main character or draw them yourself.

I look upon this first phase as the preliminary interview…and I don’t need to answer all the questions straight away. Sometimes, for instance, I don’t name a character until well into writing the story when I feel I know them better and a name that fits them might occur to me.

I don’t often describe what my characters look like, but I want to be able to see them in my head when I’m writing about them. So here’s what I ask them first:

  1. What is your name and nickname?
  2. What is your age, gender and religion?
  3. What is your mother’s name, age and profession?
  4. How would you describe your relationship with your mother?
  5. How would you describe your relationship with your father?
  6. What is your father’s name, age and profession?
  7. What are your sibling’s names and ages?
  8. What are your sibling’s most annoying traits?
  9. What do you like about your siblings?
  10. If you had a secret, who would you tell it to?
  11. What are you afraid of?
  12. What makes you happy?
  13. What is your favourite food?
  14. What food makes you want to puke?
  15. What is your favourite form of entertainment?
  16. Who is your best friend?
  17. Who is your worst enemy?
  18. Describe how you look?
  19. Describe how you think others see you?
  20. Do you have any special interests?

Record their answers on tape or in writing. (It is okay to speak aloud to yourself with this activity).

You can do this same activity for your villain too. By now you should be getting a bit of a picture of your character in your head, but now you need to delve deeper – look at what really makes them tick.

That’s what we’ll be looking at in our next post.

If you have any tips on how you get to know your characters, feel free to share them with us.

Happy writing:)

Dee

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6 thoughts on “How to Get to Know Your Main Character – Part 1

  1. Great post again as always Dee. I’ve had a session with a new character today as I’ve been driving around and chatting to her like I’ve picked up a hitchhiker. Sometimes it’s not what the characters answer but the way they answer it or the questions they ask back!

  2. Tres useful Dee. Good to add to the stock pile of character profile questions. Can’t wait till part two. I especially think ‘what are you afraid of’ is a most illuminating way to delve into a character’s pysche.

  3. Hi Dee, this is such interesting stuff. I know my main character well but I don’t think I’m doing a very good job showing my reader. I’m not giving enough of her. I’m working through my character interview right now and I think I need an image of her…? Neridah 🙂

  4. Thanks Neridah,

    It’s one of the hardest things about writing…translating what’s in your head onto the manuscript. I always find that having an image of my character helps me get a picture of them in my head.

    Dee:)

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