Writers are advised to write character studies or “interview” their characters. How do you interview an imaginary character? Here to help you is my process.
Beth: Hello, new guy. Welcome to my head. Have a seat and get comfortable.
NG: [looks around] Gee. It looks crowded in here.
Beth: Yeah. I write a lot. Some people like to read it.
NG: Hey, that’s good. You should use it as a tagline or something.
Beth: [clears throat, because Beth has indeed used this a tagline] Let’s get going.
NG: [craning neck] Who are those people over there with the swords? They look dangerous.
Beth: No one you need to worry about. They aren’t here for you. So, I’m about to start this piece featuring you, and I thought I could get to know you a bit before I start torture—I mean writing about you.
NG: Wait. You’re a writer?
Beth: [mumbles. Scribbles on paper before her “not quick on the uptake.”]
NG: [Rises from seat] I don’t know. I heard writers do scary things to characters.
Beth: Please sit down. We have a lot of work to do, and frankly [voice turns menacing], you aren’t going anywhere.
NG: Why? Can’t you write a chapter or two and forget all about me? I hear writers do that all the time.
Beth: Not this writer. Besides, they already put up money for you.
NG: [frowns] Who are “they?”
Beth: The clients who bought this story.
NG: [fear spreads on his face] Wait. That means you are a—
Beth: Yes, ghostwriter. Now, what’s your favorite color?
NG: [staring at a character with a sword walking toward them] Um, Red.
Beth: Hmmm. Favorite food?
NG: [gulping as the man with the sword stands over him, scowling] Thai.
Beth: (shrugs) I don’t know. This is supposed to be a Mafia romance. Well, maybe I could work on an interesting subplot with that.
Sword Guy: Who in hells is this, Scribe?
Beth: [distractedly, concentrating on paper] Hi, Arekan. Contract character. Just temporary.
NG:[indignantly] Temporary! And just who is this?
Beth: A character from one of my personal works-in-progress. Arekan, New Guy, New Guy Arekan.
NG: [accusatory] He doesn’t look like a romance character.
Beth: That’s right. He’s part of a science fantasy series I’m writing.
NG: There’s no such category as Science Fantasy.
Beth: So agents have told me. It’s a tough sell.
Arekan: Now, wait a minute.
Beth: Hey. Are you paying the bills? No. Then don’t complain.
Arekan: You’ve been spending a lot of time with these “temporary characters.”
Beth: A girl’s gotta eat.
Arekan: You haven’t written anything about me in months. And didn’t you say you’d get my two books done this year? Look at it. Six weeks left, and you aren’t even halfway there yet.
Beth: I’m working here. Please go somewhere else.
Arekan: If I didn’t need you as my scribe, I’d…
Beth: You’d what? You were never intended to be a main character.
Arekan: Too bad for you then. I’m not going anywhere.
Beth: You sure about that? Remember, I know where the bodies are buried.
Arekan: [innocently] What bodies?
Beth: Don’t play games with me. Or do you want me to rewrite that scene again that reveals your personal pain?
Beth: I think you are confusing me with a character. Now, please, go wander off into some other corner of my mind, before I have to do something about you.
Arekan: You haven’t heard the last of me.
Beth: That’s what I’m afraid of. [Waves hand dismissively] Go.
[A cute woman wanders to the table.]
Cute Woman: Um, hi.
Beth: Hello. And you are?
Cute Woman: Don’t you remember me?
Beth: [scratches head, then smiles] Um, sure. You’re from that MC romance I wrote a couple years ago.
Cute Woman: When are you going to write more about us?
Beth: Sorry to break it to you. I’m not.
Cute Woman: But—
Beth: Look. You were part of a contract piece, and it’s done. You had your HEA. What more do you want?
Cute Woman: But didn’t you have fun writing us?
Beth: I did, and it was great, but it’s over now.
Cute Woman: [looking dismayed] But there is so much left to tell about our story. And you left some plot threads dangling. Can’t you—
Beth: No. Look, I don’t own the rights to you. They go to the person who bought the story.
Cute Woman: I-I don’t think I can accept that.
Beth: Persistence was always one of your best traits. But I have to get back to work now.
Cute Woman: Look, if you don’t write more of our story, I’ll haunt your dreams. I whisper plot lines in your ear that you can’t resist. You always wanted to go to Mexico. Well, go with us.
Beth: I can’t. I have work lined up for months in advance.
Cute Woman: Please. I want to live again. I want—
Beth: [Sighs] I’ll contact the client and see if they want a Valentine’s story. But no promises.
Cute Woman: Thank you! I so appreciate that. Oh? Is that my little boy crying? I have to go! [character runs off]
Beth: [sigh of relief] Well, that was awkward.
NG: Wow. Characters really cling to you, don’t they?
Beth: [writes on paper “emotionally perceptive.” And sighs again.] Yeah. I don’t think this is going to work. You don’t fit the tropes at all for the romance I’m writing.
NG: What? What are you saying?
Beth: I’ll just have to find someone else. But don’t worry. I like you. Just go over there and wait in that corner, and when I have a story that fits you, I bring you in.
NG: Seriously? You’re dumping me? I thought this was my story!
Beth: It’s not you. It’s me. The piece is due in less than a month, and I just don’t have the time to twist your character into this story. But don’t worry. I’ll call when I need you.
NG: [grumbles] Don’t expect me to wait around for you. I’m a great character. I deserve a writer who appreciates me for me. [Walks away in a huff.]
Beth: [Writes on paper: “too emo for Alpha male story. Maybe gay romance.] Looks up to the line of new characters.] Next.
Image from personal avatar on Bitmoji