Getting to Know: Mark + Creating Characters

by Madeleine Rex

I immensely enjoyed my “Getting to Know: Allison” post, so I’ve interview my male MC (Mark) as well. I had to omit certain facts and act as though I were interviewing him before the end of the book for various reasons, but what you find below is all him.

  • How old are you? 19
  • If the house burned down, what one thing would you want to take with you? Probably my grandfather’s journal.
  • Describe your hands. They’re large. I have long fingers.
  • Describe your nightstand, dresser, or bathroom counter. What’s on top of it? In it? Currently, I don’t have any of those things. If I did, there would probably be a few books on top of the dresser and bottles scattered about the room. Things I was trying to hide would be in my nightstand and bathroom cabinets.
  • What is your favorite food? Homemade mac & cheese. I haven’t had it for at least four years.
  • Describe your economic/political status. Economically, I’m doing pretty poorly. I don’t have a job because only a dim-witted person would hire me due to certain circumstances. I’ve been too distracted to focus an ounce of my attention on politics.
  • Where do you have a scar or birthmark? Describe circumstances surrounding your scars. I don’t have any scars, but I have a huge mole on my nose and a Matrix tattoo on my arm.
  • What is the last book you read? What did you think of it? Great Expectations by Dickens. I enjoyed it, though the beginning was slow.
  • Do you have an embarrassing habit? Drinking… But I guess that’s more shameful than embarrassing.
  • Give one vivid memory of a parent or parental figure. The memory of a stranger’s arm around my mother’s shoulder.
  • What is a dream (in sleep) you often have? Allison bringing me Starbucks for breakfast and us eating together, talking about the recent developments. I have it over and over.
  • Do you have a lifelong dream or aspiration? Joining the Navy.
  • How do you go to sleep, and how do you wake up? (i.e. position in bed, etc.) I sleep on hardwood floors, nearly choking on the humidity in the air.
  • What is the last thing you wrote? I can’t remember.
  • What grosses you out?  Alcohol, ironically.
  • Who is the person you like the least? Why? It should be my brother, but it’s not. I’d have to go with the irritating librarian at the Junior High.
  • What is something you feel guilty about?  Myriad things. Innumerable things. I can’t count.
  • Describe what you do when you look in a mirror. I try to wash my face with the paper towels and mucky water that dribbles from the rusty faucet. Or simply wipe grease from my face.
  • Describe yourself sitting in your favorite spot. If I’m alone, I’m sitting on the cap of a hill, leaning against a bristly bush that feels soft, now, because it’s so familiar. When I have Allison’s company, it’s sitting across from her, on the other side of the train tracks.
  • Tell me about a very treasured item. My grandfather’s war journal. He fought in Vietnam.
  • Do you have a nervous tic or habit? I haven’t noticed one, but Allison or Sean might have.
  • Tell me about your siblings…if you have them. I have a sister named Amy. She lives in California with her family, and I haven’t seen her for years. Since my parents divorced, I suppose. My older brother, Sean, he… I’m sorry, but I’d rather not delve into Sean. I’ve realized that I don’t understand him.
  • What is your favorite sound? The sound the shed door makes when there’s a breeze as it shivers in its door frame. It speaks of home.
  • What is your favorite smell? Soap.

Really, folks, this is a blast. I recommend taking a whack at interviewing your characters in such a way, and I’d certainly love to read those interviews if you chose to post them.

I don’t create my characters through this process, though (obviously, because I’m done with the first draft). The interviewing is simply 1) fun and 2) helpful in getting to know your characters better. Not creating them. I create my characters through Character Analyses. I wrote analyses for almost every character that had a name and appeared in the book. Some of them didn’t even make it in, yet they’re real to me. I discovered the Character Analyses system through Elizabeth George’s Write Away. Actually, I used every bit of the plotting process that George wrote about. I read the book last year, just after having dropped Forbidden. I knew that I was in dire need of a substantial plotting process and was thrilled to find that George and I were incredibly similar. Her process was percisely what I needed, though the next time around, I’m switching things up a bit.

So, what’s your process for creating characters? Or plotting in general? Is it similar to one you read about or that of a friend?

2 Commentsto “Getting to Know: Mark + Creating Characters”

  1. I love that answer about where he would hide things. It threw me by surprise and gave me an interesting impression of him while reading his other answers.

  2. I find I create the concept, which leads to cliche cardboard cut out characters who I build the story around. As the story evolves, so too do my characters.

    Then I start asking harder questions of my characters, like, "You're a bully, why?" The answers are surprising sometimes and I realise they've moved away from being cliche to having their own existence.

    You're endorsement of Write Away had me intrigued, so I picked up a copy at our local library. Going to check it out over the next couple of days.

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