Interview Questions for Characters’ Professions & Possible By-Products

by | Writing | 12 comments

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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.

image by jmesquitaau

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.
  • image by eslfuntaiwan

    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?

image by MabelAmber

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?

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American Christian Fiction Writers

American Christian Fiction Writers

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  1. pamelasthibodeaux

    What great advice Zoe! I may have to implement this in future works!
    Good luck and God’s blessings

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      As always thanks for stopping by, Pam.

  2. Emily Conrad

    Oh, good questions! I’ve been toying with the idea of doing an interview to help with a story, too, and though I wouldn’t be talking to a cattle farmer, some of these could still apply!

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Emily, I’m glad you’re going to do an interview. I’m looking forward to mine. I’ve already told the cattle farmer I’d like to interview him. He’s in our Sunday school class. I hope your interview makes a difference in your story.

  3. Ruth Buchanan (@Ruthette)

    I’ve never tried this method. I wonder if our own personality types factor in to whether or not we’d develop a character this way.

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Ruth, I have not interviewed for other hero and heroines, partly because for my first novel, the hero was in my profession. For another, I was able to get what I needed from the Internet, because his job wasn’t a big part of the story. But I think cattle farming will be, so I want to understand the man.

  4. markast1

    I like this concept but I am stumped as to how I proceed with my character, who has a background in the Marines Special Ops morphing into a top diplomat with CIA clearance. It is critical I get this right.

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Mark, that IS tougher than setting up my interview with a cattle farmer who is in my Sunday school class. I belong to American Christian Fiction Writers, which has thousands of members. On the ACFW email loop, I see questions on such professions as you mention being answered. Some writers may not have been the professions, but they write about those professions and are often willing to answer questions from their research and interviews. When I lived in a bigger city, our local chapter of ACFW had a retired FBI agent, so I think people who could help you are out there. My recommendation is to join a large national writers association, if you haven’t already, and set up a phone or email interview with those in the know. I hope this helps, Mark.

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Me again, Mark. Or read autobiographies written by people in those professions. They won’t tell you the secrets but you’d get a sense of what life is like for them.

      • markast1

        Big thanks for your replies back Zoe! Much appreciated. I will consider joining.

        • Zoe M. McCarthy

          Great, Mark. I hope your story is successful.

          • markast1

            Me too. Thanks! I am asking the Lord to gift my writing to be compelling enough to turn pages. All glory and honor to Him. He is risen!

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