In writing classes I sometimes heard the suggestion to interview my characters. I’d try but it often didn’t do much for me, the story, or the character. Yesterday, however, I was in a bind. I have to rewrite Release Point so that instead of intentionally taking steroids (thus being banned from baseball), Paul Dante had steroids slipped into his system (thus being banned from baseball; yes, I know a positive steroid test doesn’t result in actual banning from baseball, but when you’re 36, your contract is up, your 50-game suspension will carry you into the end of the season, and no team in their right mind would sign a guy with a rep for steroid use, you can pretty much kiss your career goodbye).
Anyway, this change involved considerable plot revision, and I wasn’t sure how to make it work. Much like Paul, I had no idea how the steroids made their way into his body in the first place. When I got to my wits’ end, I started to hear him calling out to me to hash it out with him.
It’s a little freaky, “talking” to someone who doesn’t really exist, but I sat in front of my laptop and thought of the first question I’d ask if he were sitting at the other side of the kitchen table. And he answered. In his voice. I started typing out his answers even as my brain formed the next question. We went on like this for two pages until it hit me like a 2×4 how the steroids got into his system without his knowledge. I won’t give it away, but I had that same hands-shaking, heart-racing feeling at knowing, this could be the answer I was looking for. As someone once said, “It’s so crazy it just might work!”
I’ve never had to interview a character before but this worked out so well, and I had such a great time “meeting” him, that it’s one of the first things I plan to do next time my plot gets turned in a knot.
Quick shout-out: Hi, Paul! Say hi to Grace for me!