Twisted questions can peel back deepest layer of characters

The Daily Post here on WordPress posted this writing prompt today:

A Pulitzer-winning reporter is writing an in-depth piece – about you. What are the three questions you really hope she doesn’t ask you?

Whenever I’ve gone on a job interview, the typical “where do you want to be five years from now” question has always bugged me. Obviously the interviewee wants to know about your aspirations and your commitment to the company. So you give some answer that you think they might be excited about. You certainly wouldn’t say, “I sure as hell hope I’m not here, hahaha!!!” Although, you may secretly be wishing it the whole time. Just be thankful you’re not strapped up to a lie detector when you are answering it.

Another question that always bugs me is the “what is your greatest weakness” question. Here, you are supposed to humbly acknowledge that you are not perfect, but that you have taken such and such steps to strengthen your skills or abilities regarding your weakness. This shows the interviewee that you can overcome adversity with commitment, training and resourcefulness. If you want the lie detector answer, I’d say one of my greatest weaknesses is lying. I just can’t do it. I can’t keep a straight face.My mom brought me up right.

How about this one: “Do you have any questions for us?” Oh, yeah. How about, “whose ass do I have to kiss to get ahead in this company?” Hey, you need to know what the office politics are like in any job, don’t you?

Characters are at the heart of every story and as an author you need to know them inside and out. One of the coolest things about being a writer is creating a profile sheet for your characters. Such character bios offer a glance at who they are, where they came from, what influenced them, what events shaped their lives, etc. Yes, you need to know all the basics about them: a physical description, family lineage, what their childhood was like, education level, work history, goals/aspirations,  likes/dislikes, etc.

But today’s  prompt got me thinking about some questions to ask that could further peel back the layers surrounding my characters. For instance:

  • Have you ever fantasized about killing anyone, and if so, what stopped you?
  • What’s the biggest mistake you made in your life?
  • Who or what are you most loyal to, and why?

Here’s a bonus question to ask your character:

  • If you could do things all over again, what would you do differently?

Questions like those above, while twisted, may lead to answers that deeply enrich your characters and, as a result, the story about your characters.

What questions do you ask your characters?

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