Thursday, April 28, 2011

Why I don't interview my characters

The scene: a more or less anonymous location somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind. I'm looking more than a little bit frazzled. My interviewee, on the other hand, is quite relaxed. Note to self. Never do one of these when your character is more composed and at-home than you are.

Me: So, what next? (Quickly, before I can get fobbed off - again - with an accurate but totally useless reply) I mean, you've got Constantinople, but there's enemies on either side, and Mehmed is going to be practically frothing at the mouth.

Vlad: (Is that a smile or a smirk? Probably smirk, knowing him.) I certainly hope he is.

Me: So how are you going to stop him coming after you?

Vlad: Killing him first is generally considered good tactics in this situation.(It's definitely a smirk. You haven't seen smirk until it leans against a wall with its arms folded and adds in a kind of pitying, condescending 'don't worry your little head about it' look).

Me: That isn't an answer.

Vlad: (Smiling) You really are taking this far too seriously. You know where I intend to start. You will be informed as the need arises.

Me: (sourly) Gee, thanks. I know how that works. Hours of bloody research or bashing my head against a wall before you tell me what you think I should know.

Vlad: (raised eyebrow - you'd be surprised how cold it can get in here: I'm trying not to shiver, suddenly)

Me: I'm the one writing your books. You want good books, you need to tell me all of it so I don't screw up.

Vlad: (I think my language amuses him) If you would only sit down and write, I would tell you all you needed. You know that.

Me: (speechless)

Vlad: (laughing)


The sad thing is, he's right. The sadder thing is, I've got way too much else I'm trying to juggle. For starters, I don't dare try to edit ConVent while I'm dealing with Kaziklu Bey (the sequel to Impaler). The two are so different I really don't need to have the voice of one leaking into the other. Maybe when I'm a better writer. But then, given Sarah's blogging, maybe not. Maybe it's always like this.


Sarah A. Hoyt said...


Welcome to my hell.

MataPam said...

"Oh, now isn't that interesting. You've cut out every POV scene of mine." Xen leaned over my shoulder and scrolled down the manuscript. "Now the whole story is that of the President's own intelligence team, trying to keep on top of a turbulent political situation. I'm the tall dark stranger that they're trying to figure out, in between other crises. I _like_ it. Good job!" He patted me on the head and faded away.

I growled a bit, and muttered under my breath, "I'm still killing your girlfriend in the big fight. No, I don't care if you've got your fancy nano healing stuff along. Shut up."

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

You know, if we writers didn't have an outlet for the characters in our head we would be considered mad.

Kate Paulk said...


No, this is my hell. Yours is peopled by Athena and her ilk, remember?

Kate Paulk said...


More or less.

Kate Paulk said...


Yes, we would. We writers dance in the shadows of madness all the time. And sometimes, it's very easy to lose your way.

Felicity said...

Character interviews are good fun, but there's one of my characters I'd never interview, because. . . well, because if I started asking pointless questions she'd kill me.

It's just too risky.

Another would steal from me as I spoke, two would outright lie, and so on.

Clearly I'm just not a good interviewer.

Louise Curtis

Kate Paulk said...


You and me both! That little incident is why I don't interview characters. They're difficult SOBs at the best of times.

Stephen Simmons said...

Interviewing Characters.
Never occurred to me.
They show up, and I write. And then Peaches slaps me an says, "That's not what he would really do. He's a heckuva lot more selfish than that, but he's lying to you to make himself look good. Go back and fix it ..."

The problem is, Peaches even does that sort of thing when I'm not writing HER book ...

Kate Paulk said...


They're frustrating, aren't they? They tell you what THEY want you to know, and not one bit more.

Stephen Simmons said...

Kate, my problem is that I listened to Peaches. And, being a novice at this, I did things her way. She's an opinionated, obstinate so-and-so, with political activism sticking out to *there* (and even further, at times) ... now I have to bleach at least some of the "message" out of the mess I made, and try again ...

Kate Paulk said...


I actually took that aspect of things a bit further over at my website

The short version is that when it comes to what happens in this world - and that includes how you present the story - your characters aren't the best judge.

Stephen Simmons said...

The funny part of all this is that her politics don't agree with mine. So it isn't even *my* message I'm cleaning up ... :-)

Kate Paulk said...


Doesn't matter. It's kind of like if you gave an actual snapshot of what people are saying and thinking it would be hideous. Even reality TV is edited to remove the boring bits. And kind of scripted.

Who wants to read - or see - long pauses with "ums" and "ahs" and bits of weird sentence structure that make sense only to the people seeing them? We might live that way, but story doesn't work that way.