Recently, the critique group I meet with monthly did an exercise on knowing your characters. Paula Holland was nice enough to type up the notes from the interview. The exercise has the author take on the personality of their main character and answer questions about important life details.

I love to act like other people. It’s a rush to take on the traits of a young child or be someone other than yourself. This comes pretty easy for me. I hope that’s a good sign.

The best part about this exercise was that it forced me to narrow down the life details of my hero, Devon Riley. Once your character has a personality, family history, and backstory life events, that person feels more real. Your character is more real. You really do want to get to know your characters well before you write about them. When you know these people who you’re writing about, you know what they will say and how they will act in situations.

I’m always doing this when I write. I ask myself, what would Devon say? I often go back and delete dialogue because it doesn’t fit my character’s profile.

Try this exercise some time.

Before you read the interview, here is the premise of the story and the hook of my first chapter.

“It had been under two years since his father had disappeared, but to Devon it felt like yesterday. October 15, 2030 would forever be scratched in his memory as the day his father vanished. The investigation had turned up no leads and was now closed, leaving Devon with more questions than answers. And yet, Devon refused to give up hope. The way he saw it, he had one choice left if he ever wanted to see his father again — return to the scene of the crime.”

Here are the notes from the interview.

Interview with Devon Riley

Age: 10

Height: 5’0”

Weight: 100 pounds

Other Physical Details:

  • Is a little skinny
  • Not a jock and is a little on the wimpy side
  • Not really into clothes

Residence: Lives with a foster mother, Maddie. Devon says she’s nice, but it’s not like living with his dad. He’d prefer not to have to talk to Maddie.

Parents: Doesn’t remember his mother who passed away when he was 2 or 3 and his dad recently disappeared (he misses him). 

Best Memory: Spending the day with his dad when they went to the park together.

Worst Memory: The day Devon discovered he was gone. He still believes his dad is alive and he’s determined to find/rescue him.

School: His main focus is to get into the CPU school.

Friends: Likes to hang around with girls who talk a lot since Devon likes to listen. Girls also don’t tend to like sports, which is good since Devon hates sports. Boys like to push other boys around so he tries to stay away from them as friends. Right now, Devon is not so much focused on making new friends at CPU since he’s there for one reason: to find his dad plus he’s also kind of a loner.

Girlfriends: Devon likes girls, but not that much!

Hobbies: Virtual reality and games where you get to pretend you are someone else are the best in Devon’s view.

TV: He likes some TV like anything with Transformers, Star Trek and others that he couldn’t remember at the time of the interview. Worth noting, Devon’s dad’s name is “Kirk.

Pets: He has no pets, just a few robots.

Fights: He’s never had any fights that he’s won.

Most Proud: Trying to get into CPU is something Devon is proud of, in fact, he believes that he will definitely be accepted into the school. If he is accepted, he’s sure his dad will be proud of him.

Most Ashamed: He admits that he’s told a few “little white lies” and his dad once told him that if you lie, make sure you don’t get caught

Crying: The last time he cried was the day his dad disappeared.

Religion: Devon and his family don’t go to church. However, he does believe there is a God, although he doesn’t think about it all that much. He figures if he could find his dad, maybe he will believe in God.

Long Term Goals: He just wants to find his dad then everything else will be all right.

Short Term Goals: To get into CPU.