How to Speed Date your Character

Hey Scribe’s fans, PJ Sharon here. This past weekend, I spent Saturday with my writer friends at the CTRWA (CT Romance Writers of America) chapter meeting. Our usually packed monthly meeting had only about thirty members due to the New England Crime Bake conference that many of our members ditched us for attended. But even with our skeleton crew, we managed to have a fabulous time. Thanks to Jamie Schmidt, our illustrious leader for the day (that’s her in the Victorian garb and the funky boots), we enjoyed a most helpful exercise, called “Speed dating your character.”

Some of us took the liberty of getting into character by dressing up for the occasion. That’s me in the silly glasses (Lily’s eye shields that look suspiciously steampunky rather than dystopian but work for the costume, I think). Left to right is Christine Bundt, Jennie Francis, Angelique Meltivier, Jamie Schmidt, me, and Melanie Meadors.

 I found that becoming my character was especially challenging since I’m far from a sixteen-year-old girl and even farther from the year 2057. The exercise itself, however, was very enlightening. We divided up into groups of five or six and went around the table asking questions of each other’s characters, focusing on one person for about five  to ten minutes. Being grilled about our likes and dislikes, and the most intimate details about our character’s lives and personalities felt a bit like being on the Dating Game.

The funny thing was that as I answered questions from each person in the group, and each answer led to deeper questions, the more I felt like Lily Carmichael, my main character from Waning Moon. I had to totally put myself in her place, talking about my family, friends, what life was like in my fictional future world, and even what my hopes and dreams were. It really made me think about what my story was about and who my character was down deep. After a few minutes, I actually began talking in a different voice and even felt different inside. It was strange to answer in Lily’s voice and from her experiences in the book.

The following questions came up, which I thought really got to the core of our characters.

What are you most afraid of?

What is your greatest flaw/strength?

Who do you love/hate?

What are your hopes and dreams?

What is it like being a teenager with so much responsibility?

How do the people of the future survive and what does the future world look like?

These were only a few questions, but the idea was that we put each other on the spot and forced each other to dig deep and get to the heart of our characters. If you have critique partners or a writing group, I highly recommend you try it.

What questions do you ask your characters to get to know them better?



28 thoughts on “How to Speed Date your Character”

  1. Sounds like you all had a wonderful time, sorry I missed it. But thank you PJ I enjoyed reading your blog. I am sure Lily Carmichael, is a fascinating person and we all have to read your book.

    1. Thanks Bonnie. it was so much fun answering questions as Lily. Her answers even surprised me, LOL. Thanks for stopping in.

    1. Thanks Tamara. The interesting part was that I felt the emotions come up as we interrogated…er…questioned each other. The characters really came to life and each writer did such a great job becoming their character, it didn’t take long to become fascinated by each one. Definitely a worthwhile exercise.

    1. Ask someone to sit down and ask you questions as if you are being interviewed in a speed date. Answer as if you are your character and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you sink into that mindset. It’s really cool! I’m going to do this with my library group. They’ll have a blast with it, I’m sure!

  2. At the NE Crime Bake everyone (ahem) missed, 6 best-selling mystery authors brainstormed a plot., which began with developing a character. Some of the questions were-what does she have in her refrigerator? what kind of car does she drive? what are the first things she notices about people? who is her best friend?-how did they meet?, does she have a boyfriend?–all very specific but telling.

    1. So excellent, Joy. Those are perfect questions for really getting to know someone. Thanks for sharing them. I’ll have to think about that refrigerator question for Lily. That would be very interesting.

  3. Paula, how clever. Too bad I could not be at the meeting. The idea is challenging. It is a great way to make your characters come alive. Reading out loud, dialoguing out loud and questioning your characters out loud, great ideas. Thanks for sharing the meeting agenda. Maybe you can put it into our newsletter?

    1. I have to say, I loved Melanie’s Roman goddess outfit. She writes Historical romance in that time period. How cool does that sound? I suspect we’ll see her published some time soon. She’s hitting the contest circuit by storm!

      1. Yes, we did wonderful for Women At Risk International! Raised lots of support for these women who are trying to rise above their circumstances. Glad to be a part of ending Human Trafficking and slavery.

  4. This was wonderful, PJ. I was sorry I missed it. I blog this week about the same thing Joy mentioned. The NYT Bestselling authors and their questions were excellent. Got me re-thinking some things.

    1. Thanks Marian. The CrimeBake sounds like it was awesome. Just the few questions Joy mentioned really made me think. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. I think this is a fantastic idea and will mention it to the new VP of Programming when she gets in in Jan. thanks so much!!!

  6. I’m glad you got a lot out of it. While I didn’t get to be my character, it was a lot of fun grilling, I mean interviewing others and watching them slip into another person. The room vibrated with creative energy. I wanted to sit down and write. And too those of you who came in costume, you rocked!

    1. I felt that way, too! The creative energy was exhilarating. Your questions were really insightful, Gail. Having you come to our table and jump into the interviewer seat added a whole new dimension to the mix. Thanks for being such a great leader!

  7. Thanks Julie and Sonia. This was not my brain child, but that of the CTRWA board–a brilliant and fun-loving group, for sure:-)

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