Using Story Excerpts And Character Interviews for Your Blog

One thing I love doing are character interviews, especially when the characters have an attitude.  I like to give an excerpt from a book I’m writing and then ask the characters to chime in on what they think of it.  Sometimes, they give me grief over some angle in the story.  Sometimes they give me grief over another character.  Sometimes they support me while another character is giving me grief.  I like to think of character interviews as the extra features you’d find on a DVD.  If you think of your characters as people acting the part of the book, you can even get away with making your characters different from how they appear in the book.

What I do is take one of the scenes from my work in progress on one day.  I use a scene that is either easy for a character to get upset about or one of my favorites (but not something that gives any major plot point away–you want to tease people, not answer any questions).  Most of the time, I try to do a scene with humor in it because humor is an easy way to set up humor in the interview.  But you might not have any humorous scenes in your book.

If I was writing horror, I’d choose a tense scene and feature a character who is frightened along with the villain who is doing the terrorizing with plenty of threats to hint at dramatic parts in the book.  Say you have a scene where the villain has cut off the head of the hero’s pet dog and left it in the mailbox.  The villain could say something like, “Just wait until (HERO’S NAME) sees the package I left him by his front door.” Then the hero could be demanding the answer but not get it.

That’s just one example.

If I was doing a thriller where a virus was spreading through the population and the hero was struggling to find the cure, in the interview of me (as the author) talking to the hero, I would suggest he head off to the lab down in character X’s basement because something useful might be found there…except I would add it was just one piece of the puzzle and if he doesn’t piece everything together in time, people will mutate to the point of no return.

If I was doing a sci-fi, I’d pick a scene where the villain is setting the stage to ruin the hero’s objective (say colonizing somewhere).  Then I’d have the hero and villain in a fight in the interview where both sides are vowing to win against all odds.

So those are a few examples off the top of my head.  Since I write romance, I’ll show you what I recently did (if you’re interested in seeing how I approach the excerpt and interview process):

First, I set the stage with an excerpt which sets the stage for the upcoming conflict in the romance (which is the mother manipulating things so her son is finally engaged).  As a side note, my excerpts are first drafts (not the final product), and my blog readers are well aware of this so please understand this is NOT my final draft.  (In case anyone wonders, my readers are fine with me giving first draft excerpts.)  Here’s the link if interested: Lord Edon and his mother argue over his bachelorhood.

Then a few days later, I posted the interview with Lord Edon and his mother.  I didn’t actually show the excerpt where his mother forced his hand into marriage (that would have been giving away too much), but I did what I could in the interview to set the stage for it.  I also hinted that Ethan isn’t really the rake he’s trying so hard for others to believe, and yes, there is a good reason I dropped all the sex hints.  It ties into a plot point between the hero and heroine later on in the book.  So in the interview, I’m hinting at several things.  I think only after my readers have read the book will they understand the subtle hints I dropped in some of the interview, but sometimes I appreciate a book or movie more the second time just because I know what the hints are  I try to make the interviews the same way.

The key to doing interviews is to have fun with it.  The characters can step outside their box in the book.  While I interview my characters, they are in my time (so they can speak and dress in modern clothes).  I have established this early on with the first few interviews I’ve done so my readers have come to expect this.  Finding historically authentic models with the right facial expression to fit the post is downright impossible, so I don’t even try.  Like I said, the interviews are like the extra features on DVDs where the actors get to be out of their character so they can talk about the movie.  I love the freedom the interviews allow.

It’s also a great way to work through writer’s block.  Sometimes asking your character what is going on and why they’re doing it helps you learn the character’s motivations and personality traits.  Our characters are not us.  They are their own “people”, and part of the joy of writing interviews with them is figuring out who they are.  😀

Anyone else do character interviews?  If so, how do you approach it? Got any posts you’ve done with interviews that you’d like to share?

 

13 Comments

  1. Great idea, Ruth! Would you mind if we re-posted this under your name in the Forums?

    1. I’d be honored. 😀 Thank you.

  2. Arthur Mills says:

    Hi Nordin,
    I don’t comment on posts from the Self-Published Author’s Lounge often but I do read the blog whenever a new post comes out. I take a lot of the advice offered on the blog and apply them to my own writing. There was a post sometime in the past that mentioned character interviews and a light went off in my head. I interviewed the three main characters and added the interviews to my own blog and to the book’s website. The character interviews became a huge success! Thanks so much for the advice and thanks for helping authors like me! If you are interested in seeing how I used your advice, click the, “Meet the Characters” at http://www.the-crawl-space.com.
    Art

    1. I’m not sure what the formatting would involve, but did you consider making The Crawl Space an ebook? I’m sure with the way it’s set up (a choose your own adventure) would be challenging. I love your idea and have a 3rd and 4th grader (and I happen to love Goosebumps and other RL Stine books; even though I’m an adult, I still read them). I bought a copy to read with my kids so we can choose our adventure together. 😀 When I finish my current RL Stine book, I plan to get to it.

  3. At the end of an edition of an omnibus edition of Pullman’s THE GOLDEN COMPASS, he added two or three pages of small scenes (1-3 sentences) with Lyra and/or Will. The scenes were set before, during and after the time covered in the novels. They were beautiful and intriguing snapshots of well-loved characters, and were a wonderful gift for the reader.

    When I struggle with a character, I will write scenes to help flesh him/her out in my mind. Sometimes it’s pages of text, and they are seldom included in the novel, but I have them in mind when I’m writing the novel proper.

    1. If you think the scenes might be interesting to your readers, you could share them on your blog. That’s what I would do if I used that method. I’ve been thinking of doing something like that in the future. I figure something short (500 to 1000 words) that would give my readers something to enjoy.

      That’s another interesting idea that Pullman used. I haven’t read The Golden Compass (not my genre of choice), but I can see why readers enjoyed it. 😀

  4. I haven’t done an interview yet, but I’ve been thinking about doing one with Libby Fox, from the Vampires’ Curse trilogy.

    I don’t usually do excerpts, mostly because I’m afraid of giving too much away. When my husband sees previews to a movie, he says, “well, they’ve already shown us all the good scenes, so why would I want to watch it now?”. That’s what I’m always afraid I’ll do. The trick is to do an excerpt that gives just enough info that it makes people want to read it to find out what happens. I’m not sure I can do that well. LOL

    1. There is that danger, and I know what you mean about watching movie trailers. Sometimes they’re trying to intrigue too much and end up giving away too much. I battle with this a lot when it comes to writing descriptions for my books.

  5. Hi Nordin,
    I don’t comment on posts from the Self-Published Author’s Lounge often but I do read the blog whenever a new post comes out. I take a lot of the advice offered on the blog and apply them to my own writing. There was a post sometime in the past that mentioned character interviews and a light went off in my head. I interviewed the three main characters and added the interviews to my own blog and to the book’s website. The character interviews became a huge success! Thanks so much for the advice and thanks for helping authors like me! If you are interested in seeing how I used your advice, click the, “Meet the Characters” at http://www.the-crawl-space.com.

    Art

    1. Thanks, Art! I couldn’t remember if character interviews were covered before or not. I’m glad the interviews became a great success for you! I’ll be checking out your blog. Character interviews have become my favorite way of marketing my books pre-publication. 😀

  6. I’ve done this several times in my blog, or in the blog that my partner and I use under our alter egos. They’re really fun, getting to sit down with characters. It has a bit of an anarchic sensibility to it, I think.

    I do have this one:

    http://williamkendallbooks.blogspot.ca/2012/06/international-intruder-meets.html

    I wrote it from the point of view of a tabloid reporter sitting down with a terrorist, who’ll be the primary villain in my next book. It was a lot of fun writing it, and it does take the character somewhat outside of the box.

    1. I love it! The tabloid is genius! All I can say is that “I hunt hunks” three times is not easy. 😉

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