When I saw that my girl Brighton Walsh was releasing a new novella, I pretty much invited myself into her blog tour. Since we had already done an interview when she was promoting Plus One, I asked if she would talk about the amazing questionnaire that she gives her characters.
But, before we get to her post, let’s find out about Brighton’s new book.
When a storm strands Claire Hanlin in Chicago on Christmas Eve, the last person she expects to come to her rescue is Logan Dawes, the man she almost married two years ago. The chemistry between them is dangerously potent, but with nowhere else to go, Claire accepts Logan’s offer to stay with him for the night.
Back in the home they shared, surrounded by reminders of Logan and his young daughter, Claire begins to realize how much she misses the family she almost had. After a few cups of Christmas cheer, she falls right back into her ex’s arms-even though she knows it means setting herself up for heartbreak all over again.
The magic of the season has thrown him together with the woman he’s never stopped loving, and Logan’s not about to pass up this gift. He’s not the workaholic he was two years ago-his family comes first. Now all he has to do is prove it to Claire, before the snow stops and she flies out of his life for good.
And without further ado, here’s Brighton…
When Stacee asked me to stop by and share my brand of crazy regarding my character questionnaires, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I’m an organized writer, and any time I read about something that helps with that it’s like I…well, it’s like I walked into an office supply store with endless aisles of Sharpies, to be quite honest.
Sometimes characters just come to me. I know the hows and the whats and the whys of them before I write the first word of the book. I’ve dreamt about them and figured out their back story and who their best friend is an why they had such a hard time getting through high school.
Other times, I only have a faint idea of who this person is — and it’s usually a vague descriptor. Like hot construction worker. Or lonely single dad. (Notice those examples were both heroes. Because obviously.) When that happens, I need to delve deeper to figure out how they work, what makes them tick, so that when I start writing them, I get their tone and their voice down right.
When that’s the case, I go to one of my character questionnaires. Yes, I have multiple (office supply store junkie, remember?). The first time I filled one out, I answered a couple questions, felt ridiculous, and promptly put it away. It felt weird. How should I answer this? As the author talking about the character? As the character himself? I didn’t know the rules of it, so I just stopped. (hint: there are no rules; do it however you want.)
The second time, I tried it while I was in the planning stages for the novel that’s coming out next year. I pushed all thoughts out of my head, tried not to worry about what was “right” and just answered them as quickly as possible and without thinking. That led to finding out things like my hero slept in only his underwear (boxer briefs), he’s right handed, and he played some pranks in high school. Exhibits A, B, and C:
How attractive are you?
Is this a real question?
Is the bathtub moldy or covered in rust?
That shit’s disgusting.
What sort of curtains do you have? Frilly lacy ones, Venetian blinds, pull-down
The fuck kind of questions are these? I don’t know.
When I finished that questionnaire (all two-hundred and eighty-one questions of it), I had a very clear idea of exactly who my hero was, what history he had, and it even fueled some scenes in the novel because I found out things I didn’t know before. I was so excited at this discovery that I went right on and did it for my heroine and was pleased when I had the same results.
It’s worked on every character I’ve had since then, and I can’t start a novel until I’ve completed it. The questions the characters skip, the questions they answer seriously and the ones they brush off all tell you something about their character, as well.
Some writers like to have their characters develop organically on the page. They learn who they are through scenes and chapters and situational elements. And more power to them! I wish I could forgo the sometimes tedious questionnaire and skip straight to the good stuff.
And then I remember this is the good stuff to my Type A brain and answer away.
Huge thanks to Brighton for taking the time to talk about part of her process. Make sure you’re following her on Twitter, liking her Facebook page, subscribing to her blog and adding all of her books on your GoodReads shelves. I can promise you, you’re not going to want to miss out on her boys.