Character-Building Challenge Day 2: Ten Question Interview

Tip of the Iceberg by Maria L. Berg 2023

For the second day of the first Writer’s Digest Character-Building Challenge the prompt is to choose one of the character names from yesterday and ask that character ten questions.

It’s going to be hard to choose just one. I liked a lot of the names I came up with yesterday, and they are all somehow characters in my mind already, so I may only choose one to share today, but let them all participate in time.

The Questions

I took a look at the suggested questions from Novel Writing: 10 Questions You Need to Ask Your Characters by Brenda Janowitz and they are good, somewhat intense first questions to get to know a character. The questions in the article are written in third person. I changed them to second person / direct address, to ask the character the questions. I decided to start with Merle Atlantis Tremble. Here’s my interview:

Hello, Mr. Tremble. I only have a few questions this morning, but they’re a bit personal. I hope you don’t mind.
First off, it’s pronounced Trem-blay, Trem-BLAY, not Tremble, and I do mind, I need to get back to my studies, but it’s not like I have a choice, is it.
Okay, let’s make this quick. Just ten questions.

  1. How old are you? How old do you feel?  I’m twenty-six, but I feel like I’m a hundred and twelve.
  2. Did you have a happy childhood? Why/why not? No. Kids are mean. I was nice, I shared, I tried to play their games, I did everything I was told, but they excluded me. But I was happy with my books. None of the characters were mean to me. Not me personally, anyway.
  3. Are you in a relationship? Tell me about your past relationships? How did they affect you? The woman in the apartment down the hall seems to like me, but no. I don’t have time for that. I thought I was in love with my lab partner in college, but she hasn’t spoken to me since we graduated and she moved back home. Strangely, I don’t miss her. I have too much to think about without silly romanticizing. I guess I have a good relationship with my mom and my sister at least when we see each other on holidays. Dad always seems mad at me, like my existing somehow is a disappointment, but he’s pretty easy to avoid, and Mom always says he loves me “in his way.”
  4. What do you care about? Oh, everything. I like to read the great thinkers, philosophy, literature, physics, eastern religions, technology, political science. You name it, I’m reading it.
  5. What are you obsessed with? Right now? Um, I guess I’m super-obsessed with Grand Unified Theory, but I’m also obsessed with Hegelian dialectics . . . Oh, and the Idiocracy.
  6. What is your biggest fear? Home invasion . . . No, life having no purpose . . . No, snakes filling up my apartment . . . No, I’ll have to get back to you on that.
  7. What is the best thing that ever happened to you? Ever? I’d have to say um, making it to the national spelling bee. I didn’t win, but I made it to nationals. I was on TV and everything.  The worst? That’s easy, being born.
  8. What is the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you? I don’t get embarrassed easily. I don’t really care what people think. You have to care about other people and their opinions to get embarrassed. I guess, for me, missing the word at nationals was embarrassing.
  9. Tell me your biggest secret. My biggest secret, or the worlds biggest secret? Okay, are you ready? None of this is real. None of it. Not you. Not me. Not this room. Not that laptop you’re typing on. It’s all made up in my mind. And yours. I mean, we each make up our own reality, and what people say is real is a consensus of beliefs. It’s true. I mean as true as  unreal things can be.
  10. What one word defines you? You know, when I was a kid I hated my middle name, Atlantis—and my last name because everyone pronounced it wrong and kids are just mean—but now, I think my middle name defines me. I’m a lost advanced civilization. I exist in the unseen depths. I am a legend of mythical proportions. Am I real? No one knows.
Under the Surface by Maria L. Berg 2023

My Novel Draft

Here are my MCs answers to these questions:

  • How old are you? How old do you feel? I’m thirty-two but I feel older, maybe around forty-five?
  • Did you have a happy childhood? Why/why not? I had a great childhood, two loving parents that loved me and each other, until that day when I was nine. Dad was just gone. Mom tried her best to keep it together, to give me enough love for both of them, but we were never really happy again.
  • Are you in a relationship? Tell me about your past relationships. How did they affect you? I always said I was married to the job. I mean, No. I’m not in a relationship. And my past relationships were always casual. I was married to the job. But now, I don’t have that excuse, so  . . .
  • What do you care about? Solving Pauline’s murder. I can’t let it continue to go unsolved. I tried to let it go, but I can’t.
  • What are you obsessed with? Solving Pauline’s murder. And all the strange connections I keep seeing that no one else seems to get.
  • What is your biggest fear? That the killer will get away with it. I’m not as afraid that the killer will come after me, I’m afraid that they’ll live in the belief that they can kill without consequence and eventually do it again.
  • What is the best thing that ever happened to you? The worst? The best thing that ever happened to me was probably meeting Memphis. She’s been my best friend since elementary school. I don’t know who I’d be without her. Besides that, it was closing my first big case. I was on top of the world. The worst was my dad’s death.
  • What is the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you? Being served with that Restraining Order at work. At the time I thought it was so unfair, but now, it’s just embarrassing.
  • What is your biggest secret? I stole evidence and have it in my garage. But actually Memphis knows about that, so it’s not really my biggest secret.
  • What is the one word that defines you? To everyone else, it’s probably as simple as “tall.” But I think it should be “sharp.”

That was really fun, and a good start to interviewing my characters. I have another list of questions called the Proust Questionnaire that I’ll run them through as well, and hopefully I’ll know my characters better when I’m done.

Character-Building Challenge Day 1: Names

Creating a Character by Maria L. Berg 2023

Happy first of March. Today is the first day of the first Writer’s Digest Character-Building Challenge. The first prompt is to create ten character names.

New Character Names

For today’s names I used my Character Creation Spreadsheet and a random number generator. Middle names made a big difference to me this morning, and when a first and middle no longer fit with the chosen last name, I kept trying random numbers until I found one that I liked better. Then, when I looked at my list, I switched a couple of last names around.

  1. Raine William Black
  2. Sonia Havana Cashion
  3. Seok Birch Purkey
  4. Seneca Lynn Zimmer
  5. Davenna Dale Byron
  6. Annette Rochelle Pudlewski
  7. Merle Atlantis Tremble
  8. Kirsi Jean Roth
  9. Pheak Bree Lebbesmeyer
  10. Shusha Moon Nguyen

I can already see Sonia Havana Cashion with high fashion shopping bags, Davenna Dale Byron reading a romance in a bubble bath with candles, Annette Rochelle Pudlewski calling the cops on her neighbors, Merle Atlantis Tremble daydreaming with a book in his lap. Now I’m excited for the next prompt to see what these characters get up to.

My Novel Draft

I thought I would use the prompts to take a close look at my novel draft’s characters and develop them further. Each of the five main characters in my novel represent one of the big five contradictory abstract nouns: Truth/Deceit, Beauty/ Ugliness, Happiness/Despair, Love/Apathy, Wisdom/Naivete. When I created the first and last names for these characters, I used the first rule mentioned in The 7 Rules of Picking Names for Fictional Characters by Elizabeth Sims and looked for names with root meanings that aligned with the abstract nouns the characters represent.

Today’s prompt made me realize that I didn’t give my characters middle names. But those middle names never came up either. It’s not that often that our middle names come up in daily life, at least not in my experience. However, parents usually put some thought into those middle names, and the names often have family connection, so choosing middle names may give me a little more information about my characters. To find middle names, I continued to look at name meanings that went with the character’s abstract nouns, and imagined their frustrated mothers or fathers saying the two names together to express the seriousness of a situation.