The Character Interview by Bishop & Fuller – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Bishop & Fuller will be awarding a $25 Amazon or BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour and see our review here.

The Character Interview

Some writers, to pull out of the doldrums or to access other parts of the brain, switch from keyboard to notepad, jump to another project, get drunk—many options, and we use them all, to some degree and with mixed degrees of success. A less common technique for fiction writers—but of great value—is the character interview.

We have the advantage of being veteran actors for whom “embodiment of the other” is the heart of the trade. But we’ve offered countless workshops for folks ranging from priests to felons to teachers, and have vivid memories of the “characters” who’ve emerged. Anyone can do it. No different, really, than what happens when you put on a tux, high heels, or just a different hat or hair-do: a new “you” emerges.

For the writer, the process is simple. You choose one of your characters. You turn on a recording device. You embody the character. A colleague asks you questions. You reply as the character. You might spend ten minutes, you might spend an hour. Afterward, you listen to what you’ve recorded, take notes or transcribe sections that are useful.

There’s a difference between sitting at the keyboard and embodiment. Start with putting on the character physically: what feels right at each stage: the spine, the way the person sits, the breath pattern, the variations of eye focus, the physical points of tension. What does the person do with his/her hands? How often do they shift? Vocal placement? How does adopting different physical elements affect how you think, vocal patterns, pauses, compulsive flows?

This isn’t a performance: it’s an exploration. Lots that’s said will be irrelevant, some will be contradictory, some will be dead stupid. But it’s like a first draft: it’s up to you what stays and what goes. Granted, it can feel for a moment as if you’re stark naked, but if you’re simply focused on being the character, that quickly passes.

It requires a partner—friend, spouse, fellow writer—but with no special skills. It’s not playing a scene, a cross-examination or therapy: it’s just asking questions that occur, from the sublime to the ridiculous. We’ve had a question like, “What’s your favorite color?” result in a major new character element. It’s good to give them a brief summary of the character and what the character does—but make it brief. One value of the session is to see what questions arise in the questioner.

Another value, sometimes, is to see what your character doesn’t answer, and how he/she avoids it. We all have our bounds, and the “wrong” question might receive a hard stare, a stammer, or a circumlocution worthy of a Presidential candidate. Those are as useful as the most brilliant flow of words.

With BLIND WALLS, based on our 1997 play, which involved a great deal of improvisation in its development, the one character that was greatly expanded in the novel was the blind tour guide, Raymond Smollet, who serves as the unwilling narrator of the story he encounters on his final tour before retirement. We had talked a lot about his backstory, but what came to us in the interview was more his “manner” than any concrete information. His gestural pattern, his slightly-arch, slightly self-deprecating humor, his willingness to accept what life might offer him—all these were there, sorta, in earlier drafts, but the interview gave us a solid grasp.

And same as with any editorial comment, review, or nightmare, the real challenge is in deciding what’s useful.

[If you do happen to try this, we’d love to hear how it worked for you, or how it didn’t. We’ve done it many times in workshops, but never tried to coach long-distance. Email us at]

It’s a monstrous maze of a mansion, built by a grief-ridden heiress. A tour guide, about to retire, has given his spiel for so many years that he’s gone blind. On this last tour, he’s slammed with second sight.

He sees the ghosts he’s always felt were there: the bedeviled heiress, her servants, and a young carpenter who lands his dream job only to become a lifelong slave to her obsession. The workman’s wife makes it to shore, but he’s cast adrift.

And the tour guide comes home to his cat.

The pairing of Bishop and Fuller is a magical one. . . . It’s a brilliant opus, melding the past, present, and future with intimate, individual viewpoints from a tightly arrayed cast of believable characters in as eerie a setting as might be dredged out of everyman’s subconscious searching. . . . Blind Walls offers a weird alternative world, featuring a blind man with second sight and an acerbic wit as its charming, empathic hero.

—Feathered Quill

These characters are so well developed that one has to think of them as live people – laughing with them and crying with them, even getting old with them. This is an amazing story based on the Winchester Mansion and told with such quiet, compelling, raw humanity that the reader simply can’t stop until the entire tale is told. A wonderful, spooky look into others lives and what may or may not happen on any given day.

—Dog-Eared Reviews

Bishop and Fuller have constructed a story rich with imagined detail and visionary ideas about life’s possibilities. The cast of ghostly characters, servants, workman, and family light up the story with dramatic effect as their actions and choices are observed. . . . The authors’ prose is effortless and moves easily from humorous to weighted seriousness. The dialogue is perceptive, giving voice to compelling characters and particularly to the tour guide whose second sight he confers on the readers. The latter will not want to look away from the myriad rooms of Weatherlee House.

—US Review of Books

Enjoy an Excerpt

As always, I stood by the Here sign under a fig tree sprinkled scantily with small ripe figs. Behind me, as always, I felt the looming massive labyrinth of Weatherlee House.

Being a short man, I habitually assumed a military stance, stretching myself upward at least a quarter of an inch. My clipped hair, which I’m told is mostly gray, added gravitas to my otherwise bland face, or so I imagined. My tour guide’s uniform—crisp navy blazer, burgundy rep tie—bulged only modestly at the midriff. A brass name plate, over the buttoned pocket where my heart might be, labeled me Raymond Smollet. My round wire-rimmed black glasses were the only discordant feature in my demeanor. The fact is that I am blind.

The figs and my necktie hue I knew only by report. The wire-rims made my nose itch. I had tried wrap-arounds, but my supervisor Mr. Bottoms said they looked creepy. In fact, Management surely discerned that I looked even creepier with wire-rims. I could intuit patrons peering in sideways at my fixed milky orbs, a perfect match for those haunted-house billboards that sucked them in. People would pay top dollar to visit alien worlds where the only true risk was blurring a snapshot.

Today was the final day of my life and now the final hour. Final, at least, for life as I had lived it. I stood cockily under my fig tree on the brink of my retirement—a Friday that marked the completion of thirty years as a tour guide of Weatherlee Ghost House.

About the Authors: Conrad Bishop & Elizabeth Fuller’s 60+ plays have been produced Off-Broadway, in regional theatres, and in thousands of their own performances coast to coast. Their two public radio series Family Snapshots and Hitchhiking off the Map have been heard nationally. Their books include two previous novels (Realists and Galahad’s Fool), a memoir (Co-Creation: Fifty Years in the Making), and two anthologies of their plays (Rash Acts: 35 Snapshots for the Stage and Mythic Plays: from Inanna to Frankenstein.)

They host a weekly blog on writing, theatre, and life at Their theatre work is chronicled at Short videos of their theatre and puppetry work are at Bishop has a Stanford Ph.D., Fuller is a college drop-out, but somehow they see eye to eye. They have been working partners and bedmates for 57 years.

Website | Facebook | Conrad Bishop Amazon Page | Elizabeth Fuller Amazon Page | Conrad Bishop Goodreads | Elizabeth Fuller Goodreads | Conrad Bishop Facebook | Elizabeth Fuller Facebook | YouTube

Pre-order the digital book from Smashwords for only $0.99.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Since becoming available cialis uk has been the most popular drug ever that provides quick result to gain erection. generic cialis no rx However, very often it’s really difficult to perform the act of sexual intercourse. Your offer to serve buying cialis in canada Slush at your place will withstand any competition. Many must have used levitra generic no prescription at least one of these.


  1. Thank you for hosting today.

  2. James Robert says

    Thanks for sharing your book and I enjoyed getting to hear about it.

  3. kim hansen says

    Sounds good.

  4. Rita Wray says

    Sounds like a book I will enjoy reading.

  5. Bernard Wallace says

    Do you have any plans for your next book?

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.