Ah characters, they make and break stories in general. But how to you get to know them?
Hey everybody, and welcome to another blog piece! This time, I’m going to talk a bit about character interviews, and give you a sample to look at, based in my own fantasy world.
Getting to know your creations is essential to making good characters I find. After all, if you don’t know your characters back to front, how will you expect those to read about them to learn? I really admire people who can rattle off everything about their characters to even view them as friends IRL, because it proves they’ve studied their creations and honed them so much they’re real to them. That takes dedication, and it shows in the written piece.
How best to do this? I find the immersive way is the best. By that I mean, get into your world, sit your character down, and talk to them! Learn things about them through questions, do their hobbies and have a conversation with them, or even use it like a job interview. Say your character is a sorcerer, but wants the job to the High Temple of Drekor. Then take the role of the boss, and interview them, find out more about them. Doing this allows you to find out more about your world (Worldbuilding is great!) and you get to research your characters more intimately.
Here is an example I did, already on my FB page: https://www.facebook.com/Counterbalance-A-Torn-World-679482555452356/ but for the sake of this post, I’ll put it up here. Here is a interview I did with one of my favourite characters, the Rapier, commander of the deadly mercenary group The Thousand Scars.
Welcome to this interview. I’m glad I can meet someone of your caliber.
(He doesn’t remove his hood. He is a giant of a man, wrapped in a scaly black robe. All he does is breathe heavily)
Please. Tell me your name.
(He emits a laugh from under his hood.) Very well. I’m known to those I lead and follow as Rapier. To my enemies, it’s been known as the Reaper. (He pauses.) What you decide to call me depends on what I think of you after this pointless charade.
As you wish. Well, I have many questions. You’re aware of the agreement we signed at the beginning, I trust?
What of it? I don’t bow to the whims of anyone. Anyone.
This is for the Paladin’s own good. You owe him this.
(He takes a while to reply.) As…you wish. And Tyir is my man. Anyone who threatens his existence loses their own. Understood?
That’s acceptable. To start, how did you come across the Paladin? Forgive me, but your appearance…is not…
Normal? (A cold, dark laugh radiates from him.) Human? I’m far beyond that now. But to answer your question, it’s an interesting story, how I became one with the Paladin himself. But that delves into territory beyond your own knowledge, and your humanity. It will take some…time.
We have time.
We certainly do. I used to be one of the Keidan. You’re aware of the Keidan, I trust?
Who isn’t? Their legend is the talk of the continent, especially in the Kahal tribes.
Exactly. Well, it’s history is ancient. Some say it was forged in the old days of the Valian Dynasty, during the Aera Age. That was some four thousand years ago now. The Immortal Maestars were brought together to build the fortress, in order to watch over the world, but then during the great Chaos, it severed ties with the world and built its own Empire. The Pharos Order as it is called now, is the last legacy of the now dead Valians. They’ve fought and battled with the Keidan for centuries, because they view them as their rivals, and unclean.
Wouldn’t the Keidan disapprove of you spilling secret knowledge like this?
Hence why I said “used to.” Are you going to let me finish or not? (He doesn’t make a sound, but I see his cloak twitch.) I could just make you scream the remainder of your pitiful existence, before I crush you.
Which would be most unwise. Anyway, I apologise. Do go on.
As I was getting to. The Kahal civil war of Independence was under way, maybe…twenty years ago now. The Order dogs had deceived the clans after Temujn’s pilgrimage across the Kahal years before, and had been oppressing the tribes. Well, the Kahal are a fierce born, and don’t bend so easily. The war of independence lasted nearly six years, and cast blood across the province. Not even the Keidan escaped that violence. The Order…fools they were, desecrated our sacred shrines, and the Keidan declared war upon them to protect their borders.
Well, that conflict brought many mercenaries into the war to fight on both sides. Uslor, The Empire sent volunteers, even the Barta League sent in men, and their blood is as white as milk. Tyir’s company found its fight there. The Thousand Scars, and it became our salvation. The Keidan were fighting on its own side, but because the Kahal did nothing to hinder it, you could say they were aligned. The Pharos Order has many enemies because of their pathetic, mortal whims, and Tyir practiced his necromancy the most during that war. That was where his reputation really lay, and his eventual…downfall. I came across the Necromancer when I was spying for my own side, to deal with him as a potential threat. But I found his power to be one I could respect. I eventually tied myself to his world, and when he offered me a place in his company, I had no ties to the Keidan no longer. I was complete. I had finally…achieved complete form.
Care to elaborate on that?
You know how servants of the Keidan lose their identities? I still lack one. I’ll let you figure out the rest.
….There is no humanity in that, but who am I to judge. I have some more questions for you.
You’re going to ask me something human like if I can remember my family, aren’t you? I have no humanity left, except obedience. And even that is…limited.
It’s for the greater good. And yes, I was going to ask you more questions regarding your own…personal life. If you can remember it.
Fine, fine then. Though be quick. My heart thirsts for more blood.
Well the first is probably the most basic…what brought you into the Keidan? I’m aware of the stories, but I’d like to know your past.
You’re awfully inquisitive aren’t you.
It’s my job. I’m paid for this sort of thing.
My family….were nothing special. We shared blood, but that was it. Strange, the feelings people who between others just because of a bond given to us when we are born. While we grow in the mother’s womb, we do not care for creed, blood or who sits under our thumb of rule, but survival. Survival is what my family wanted. I hated it there; a poor life. I don’t remember much of my childhood, before I came into the Keidan.
You’d hear great tales of elegance by the odd traveler coming through, on their way up north, where they’d tell tales of the grandness of the civilised. It was an illusion. One night, a man in black robes bearing the seal of the Keidan came. Nobody wanted to see him…their fear of that place was rancid in their bones. You don’t show fear if you want to survive. My father agreed to see him, and heard him out. They wanted students to study under the Keidan’s nest, for lack of a better word. The truth is slavery.
Why do they take them?
The Keidan takes strong souls from across the land, and studies them. An ancient and powerful order, it’s founding was a great many years ago; nobody really knows how long it has stood the test of time. It was certainly standing during the Pharos Order’s futile attempts to rebuild its strength following their founder’s sacrifice during the great Chaos. The foundations stood for centuries…but this man was a mere servant, answering the call of his order. I did not feel hatred for him. They wanted my family to sell their children to a better cause, he said. I remember him well, even in those days, though it is a little hazy now.
Were you an only child?
I had a sibling. They handed him over to the man without a second thought. Times are hard in a peasant family. Less mouths to feed, greater chance of living through the winter. And the winter coming was a harsh one indeed. They made the right choice…
Your family…sold you to the Keidan?
You sound as though you judge. I felt no hate for my family. The messenger left that night, saying he would return in the morning, and my parents had gone to bed. My sibling wouldn’t sleep for fear of leaving the village. Don’t ask me what village it was. I didn’t know, and I sure as hell didn’t need to find out. I knew what I had to do. I picked up the hunting knife my father used to skin the pigs, and crept into our room, where we all slept. My mother and father, they looked peaceful in their slumber, drained of the will to be awake, to fight for their children. I didn’t hate them, only knew what was right. I knew if the Keidan made me join them either way, I would do it under my terms. Was an easy thing, cutting through my parent’s throats. That morning, the messenger returned to find me and the other one, ready to go…we left as my sibling cried…he didn’t know why his parents didn’t wake up that morning..
How old were you?!
Eleven. Don’t look at me like that. I knew I was different even then. And in hard times, people die. It’s only nature. I was a hardy child, strong and efficient. It was my family’s mistake to learn how strong I was.
Moving on…what did you do as Tyir’s commander of the Thousand Scars?
We sold goods to the poor. What do you think we did? We warred and rampaged, fighting in petty wars. The Kahal civil war lasted for eight years before they were finally defeated, and Tyir was captured by the Order for his crimes of necromancy. I took over most of the force after he was imprisoned, and I revolutionized it. I could no longer support my master’s art, now he was a prisoner in the Sepulcher, and we lacked the strength to break him free, but our men never lost hope, and maintained our loyalty. Then we heard the quisling Order Lazarus set him free, and they fled to Valare. We knew then to marshal our strength to his once more. Operating in secret, of course. Valare has no need for monsters like ours. Some of his greater, more accomplished servants we recruited later. Horse, Sleeper, Ombrone, Meira. She turned out to be his greatest possession.
I’m guessing you won’t elaborate on that. That’s all the time we have.
I’ll wait until you ask him. I won’t betray any of my masters secrets.
See? It’s a simple and immersion intensive way of getting to know your creations. It’s enjoyable and you get to put yourself into the voice of your characters. For all writers, try this out sometime. You’ll be surprised what you can do.
Next piece will be about a game I’ve been playing since it came out, and my love-hate relationship with it: Elder Scrolls V Skyrim. Comment and share your views 🙂