Sunday, February 14, 2010

Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All about You

Leah Bright Maxwell and Trevor Aldrich Logan

That's real characters, as opposed to real people. But they're real to me, now that I've interviewed them.

I happen to be blessed to know author Ramona K. Cecil (Sweet Forever, Everlasting Promise, and Charity's Heart--all from Barbour Publishing's Heartsong Presents). We both are members of Southern Indiana Writers' Salon and American Christian Fiction Writers. On multiple occasions, Ramona has adjured SIWS writers to interview our main characters. I did that with my latest WIP and was amazed at the difference it makes in the writing. It shows.

If a writer has not taken the time or made the effort to get to know his characters well, that shows, too. It's hard to write in deep POV if one doesn't know what that POV would be or how the character views the world.

In the case of my protagonist, Leah Bright Maxwell, I knew her pretty well; much of her is me. Whereas I interviewed her, I didn't uncover any major information. Some minor things, but nothing big. On the other hand, I didn't know much at all about the neighbor boy, Trevor Aldrich Logan. His personality was ambivalent. He showed up, spoke a line or two, half-smiled, and stepped into the background. Then I interviewed him. Everything changed. Now, he will have a much larger role in the plot. He will be a co-conspirator.

Here is the interview I conducted with Trevor:

SKC:  What is your full name?
Trevor:  Trevor Logan.
SKC:  Middle name?
Trevor:  Aldrich. It was my gramp's name, but everyone called him "Al." [I didn't know this before.]
SKC:  That's a good solid name. Do you know what it means?
Trevor:  Mom looked it up once. She said that the Trevor part means "large village." Aldrich means "old king." Some place else said it meant "spear wielder."
SKC:  So you're the old king of a large village who carries a spear? (chuckle)
Trevor:  (smiles) I guess. A soldier. Like my dad. And my gramp.
SKC:  Is your gramp still living?
Trevor:  No. Neither is my dad.
SKC:  Oh, Trevor. I am so sorry. How did they die?
Trevor:  Gramp was old. He had a stroke and died. [I didn't know this.] I was a little kid. Dad was a brave warrior.
SKC:  Oh?
Trevor:  He died in Iraq. He. . .
SKC:  I know it is hard to talk about. You don't have to--
Trevor:  No. I want people to know, because I'm proud of him. He threw himself on a grenade to save his buddies.  [Nor did I know this before the interview.]
SKC:  Oh, Trevor. He was a very, very brave man.
Trevor:  Gramp died shortly after we heard about Dad dying. Mom says Gramp died of a broken heart. 
SKC:  What about your grandma?
Trevor:  Grammy lives with us. [This also surprised me.] Actually, we live with her. It's her house. She and Gramp built it a long time ago. The front part used to be a little gas station, back before Gramp decided to retire. It's kind of an odd house, with old gas pumps still out in front. [This was all news to me.]
SKC:  It has character.
Trevor:  (chuckles)
SKC:  So how did you and your mom--what's her name?
Trevor:  Wilhelmina. But no one calls her that. She might bop 'em if they did. Everyone calls her "Willie."
SKC: So how did you and your mom come to live here? Where did you live before?
Trevor:  North Carolina. After Gramp died, Grammy called Mom and said, "Wilhelmina, why don't you and Trevor come to Indiana and live here with me? We'll take good care of one another." So we did.
SKC:  She's your father's mom, isn't she?
Trevor: Yep.
SKC:  Are your other grandparents, your mom's folks, still living?
Trevor:  Yeah. They live in Illinois. Close to the Mississippi River.
SKC:  What's your Grammy's name?
Trevor:  Fern. I like that name. The woods around here are full of ferns, and I think they're really pretty.
SKC:  I like ferns, too. Have you met the girl who is spending the summer up on the hill?
Trevor:  With Miss Becky. Yeah.
SKC:  What do you think of her?
Trevor:  I don't know her much. She's from Chicago, so she's probably uppity.
SKC:  "Uppity"?
Trevor:  Yeah. You know. Snobbish. Big city. Miss Becky said her dad's a college professor or something like that.
SKC:  Her name is Leah. You and she have some things in common.
Trevor:  Like what?
SKC:  Well, she's only a little bit older than you. And she has lost a parent, too. Her mom was killed in a car wreck. She was hit by a drunk driver.
Trevor:  That's sad.
SKC:  Yes, it is. Do you know Miss Becky well?
Trevor:  Yeah. We go to the same church. She was my Sunday school teacher in third grade. I like her a lot. I go up to her house a lot. She let's me help out. Do chores. That kind o' thing.
SKC:  Don't you have a garden at your house?
Trevor:  Yep. We all three work in it. But I really like to grow things and take care of them, so I help Miss Becky, too.
SKC:  I would think that would keep you pretty busy.
Trevor:  Yep. But I like to be outdoors, so it's fun for me. Dad did, too. He was a first-rate woodsman. He taught me all sorts of things about the woods and how to survive in the wild. Like Brian in Hatchet.
SKC:  Oh, so you've read that book?
Trevor:  Yep. Pretty good, too.
SKC:  Do you read a lot?
Trevor:  Not really. That was a book we read in school. Mostly I read to find out stuff. You know. Not made-up stories. Books about nature, an' stuff like that. Dad used to get me them kind o' books just about every birthday. I have a bookshelf in my room--well, it's part of my bed--that Mom calls my Lewis and Clark shelf. You know. After the explorers. [All of this is new to me.]
SKC:  Yes. I've heard of them. So what kinds of books are on your Lewis and Clark shelf?
Trevor:  Dad got ma a lot of books about how to identify stuff. Trees, wildflowers, medicine plants, birds, mushrooms, butterflies, insects, snakes, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, dragonflies--you name it.
SKC:  I might not be able to name it.
Trevor:  Then we'll look it up in a book.
SKC:  Those are important things to know.
Trevor:  Yep. [He says "Yep" a lot.] I know the woods around here real good.
SKC:  You miss your dad a lot, don't you? I can tell. When do you miss him the most?
Trevor: When I'm out in the woods and I see something special and I want to show it to him or ask him about it and I can't 'cause he's not there. And at night. He used to read to us from the Bible and we'd talk about it. What it meant. That kind o' thing. Sometimes we'd talk a looooooooong time. Till Mom said I had to get to bed. Oh, and when the mailman comes. I know there's no need expecting a letter from Dad. There's another time, too, when I really miss 'im.
SKC:  When's that?
Trevor:  When Mom cries. When she misses him so much she just cries. And I don't know what to do to make her feel better.
SKC:  Do you cry?
Trevor:  (almost inaudibly) Sometimes.
SKC:  Trevor, may I ask some not-so-serious questions?
Trevor: Yep.
SKC:  These are about your favorite things. What's your favorite color?
Trevor:  Green.
SKC:  Ice cream?
Trevor:  Butter pecan.
SKC:  Meal?
Trevor:  Grammy's homemade chicken 'n' noodles with mashed potatoes and corn-on-the-cob and tomatoes from the garden. Watermelon for dessert.
SKC:  Subject in school?
Trevor: And science. I like social studies pretty good, too.
SKC:  Book?
Trevor:  Well, Hatchet. And I really like the Chronicles of Narnia, too. Are we about done, 'cause I got some things I need to do?
SKC:  I think so, unless there's something else you'd like to tell me.
Trevor:  Nope. I want to go see if I can help Miss Becky.
SKC:  Thanks for talking with me.
Trevor:  You're welcome. See ya later.
SKC:  Count on it.

Want more on the subject? Visit Linda Glaz' blog.


  1. Exactly what we've been discussing on my blog, too. I guess it's in the air. I am working with an actor and director to find out how they flesh out a character for a part. This interviewing is a clever idea and might uncover a lot of facts about a character. Great job!

  2. Linda, I've noticed that topics often do seem to be floating around for several to grab. I appreciate what you write about working with and actor and director. In college, I minored in theater and learned method acting. I do that process with my storytelling and my writing. It's all so connected! Thanks for your comment and for following. Write on!

    Because of Christ,