Jul 27 2014

Playing with Words: 20 Odd Questions

Published by at 10:49 pm under Uncategorized

My husband subscribes to the online version of the Wall Street Journal. I don’t like to read the newspaper on line. I want to curl up in bed with a cup of tea and the newspaper folded just so; precisely into halves-vertically or horizontally-the same way my father would fold his Wall Street Journal at the breakfast table when I was a child. In deference to my preference for real newsprint, my husband continues to pay for the paper edition despite the fact that he could save money by letting it go. It’s one of the little things my husband does to ensure my happiness. I am very grateful.

In the Saturday Style & Fashion edition (yes, the Wall Street Journal now has a weekend edition) some celebrity is usually interviewed about his or her preferences in clothing, reading material, food and other favorites.  The questions intrigue me; they are an odd collection of 20 questions. Some are familiar, others are less so but always they are interesting.  I think they would be useful in describing characters for a novel.

Imagine, for example, that you asked your character what kind of suit he preferred.  What will he answer?  If you ask a female the same question, what would she say?  What do they read? What’s their favorite hotel? What are their favorite sheets?  Your story may not take your characters out of town nor are your characters all destined to be financial analysts. But they do wear clothes; they do use household products, electronics, and perhaps they even go to the gym.

The nature of characters lies in their choices, in the smallest details of their lives and environment. You may use these details in your narrative to add definition and depth to the people in your novel or you may not; your character may come to the page fully formed. You should, however, know their backstory.

Here are just a few of the fun questions I have gleaned from the pages of several recent WSJ interviews.  Feel free to make up some of your own!

  • What kind of car do you drive?
  • Where do you live?
  • What’s the best road trip you’ve ever taken?
  • Best travel destination?
  • Favorite Hotel?
  • What is the one thing you use the most?
  • What are your favorite sheets?
  • If you cook, what’s your specialty dish?
  • Favorite song?
  • Favorite book?
  • Do you have a pet?  What kind?

Next time you are creating a character for a writing project, play the twenty question game to discover the quirks that will bring your character to life.




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