Interview Questions for Characters’ Professions & Possible By-Products

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The hero in my next romance is a cattle farmer in Southwestern Virginia. I pass cattle farms often. I see muddy areas where the cows have been brought in from the pasture, the tabs stapled to their ears, the machinery, and the farmhouses. These offer little about what my hero’s workday is like, his worries, and his hopes.

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So, to develop my hero, I will interview a cattle farmer. I hope he’ll give me a tour of his farm too.

It’d like to use my interview for more than developing my character.



By-Products from Interviews

  • Developing interview questions can make my online research easier.
  • I could write an article about cattle farmers for guest blogs and my newsletter to promote my book.
  • From the farm tour, I could use photos on my Facebook author page.
  • Interesting farming tidbits could be fodder for promotional speaking engagements.
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    I could design a set of multiple-choice questions about cattle farming for a contest.
  • The stories the farmer shares may help in developing a plot twist I would never have thought of.
  • Thinking up the questions alone can spark possible crises, dilemmas, and conflicts for my story.

Example: Interview Questions for a Cattle Farmer and Wife

1. Why did you choose to be a cattle farmer?

2. Is your farm a family farm, and if so, how did that affect your decision to farm?

3. What effect has farming had on your family?

4. How many acres is your farm, and for the area, what size farm do you consider it to be?

5. What time do you get up and how long is your farming workday?

6. You have a second job. Could you live a comfortable life on the farm income alone?

7. What farm jobs take up most of your time?

8. What jobs do you consider most challenging and why?

9. What worries you most about cattle farming?

10. Have you ever considered giving up farming and why?

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11. What do you like best about farming and what is your greatest hope for your farm?

12. What help do you have on your farm?

13. Do you breed cows or buy them to fatten up, and what are the tabs in their ears for?


14. How do you sell cows and to which markets?

15. What breed of cattle do you own?

16. What machines do you use to run your farm and what do they do?

17. What special gear do you wear to do farm work?

18. What do you think are the most dangerous activities in farming?

19.What’s the funniest thing that has happened on your cattle farm?

20. What myths about cattle farming could you dispel?

Questions for Farmer’s Wife

21. What do you like best and least about your husband being a cattle farmer?

22. What is your biggest challenge in being a farmer’s wife?

23. What farm jobs do you help with?

Your interviews on professions for your story can provide by-product benefits. Click to tweet.

What by-products have you gleaned from your interviews on professions? What other questions might I ask my cattle farmer?

Reel in Readers With a Devastating Choice

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A Writer’s Digest article* suggested a devastating choice will hook readers and show much about your character. This intrigued me. Although the writer discussed how to develop the story before and after the choice, I approached the idea from a different angle. How would people’s past and current situations affect their choices? For examples, I chose characters with three different situations.

The Setup

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A fictional poisonous creeper snake strikes the character’s hand. The character knows the crone a two-minute walk away will have a potion to save his life. He heads for the crone’s shack.



The Choice

The crone inspects the red poison line creeping up the character’s arm and extends a vial. “This is the only potion I have on hand for this kind of viper’s bite. You must consume it within the next four minutes.” The character grabs the vial and removes the stopper. The crone grips his arm, stopping him from drinking the potion. “If you drink the potion you will live, but your memory will be forever erased.”

The Decision

Rex’s Reflection

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Lacking his memories, will he still be the changed man inside he is now after his ten-year stint in prison? Or will he reject his wife and daughter—even worse—beat them as he did his first wife? If so, can he hope he’ll change again? But will the change occur after he’s destroyed his loved ones? They’d be better off with him dead and cherishing loving memories of him. Surely, they will love again.

Rex throws the vial to the ground before he can change his mind. The crone calls her son into the room, points at the ax in the corner, and says, ”Hurry. Chop off his arm above the red line. (For the story, Rex must live.)

Orin’s Reflection

His wife and daughter are the joy of his life. Having no memory or love for them, his life will be worthless. How will his daughter bear his vacant eyes and disinterest? Suppose he doesn’t choose to love his wife and daughter again? How can he put them through that trial? But how could he not soon love his beautiful wife and sweet daughter again? Surely, they’ll supply his important memories. He wants to live. Orin drinks the potion.

Chad’s Reflections

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Live, having no memory of his deceased wife and daughter? The memories of them keep him going— No, they keep him suffering guilt, drunk, and living on the streets. Wiping his memory clean could end his pain and give him an opportunity for a new life. But he’d have no guarantee an empty memory bank would improve his sorry existence. Society would be better off with him dead. Yet…in building a new life without the painful memories, he might save someone’s life. Chad drinks the potion.

Each situation, after the choice, offers great challenges for the character. The reader will hopefully want to know how he overcomes them and how he ends up.

Try giving your story character a devastating choice to make. Click to tweet.

What are possible creative and unexpected challenges the characters could face after their choice?

*“What Would You Do?” by David Corbett (Writer’s Digest January 2018)