Interviewing Characters

secretary - morguefileInterviewing a character?!

Sounds a little crazy, doesn’t it? When I first heard about the technique, I thought it was too. I mean, c’mon. Seriously? How can you interview someone who isn’t real? But then I realized that all of my characters were real people to me. And I loved most of them, kind of like extended members of my family – or at the very least, very good friends. So when I ran into a problem while outlining the books in the Coach’s Boys series, a big problem, I decided to give it a try.

What problem was that? Simply that I didn’t like Darby O’Hara, Cal’s wife in Code Red Christmas. Not even a little bit.

Yikes! It’s really hard to write a novel – a romance novel – when you don’t like one of the lead characters, so yeah, I was desperate. Desperate enough to try the interview thing. Except I wound up ‘talking’ to Darby and her sister.

And you know what? It worked. As they revealed themselves to me, things I’d never known about their childhoods came to light and I finally ‘got’ where Darby was coming from. And once I did, I understood her and, more importantly, how I needed to tell her part of the story.

Sure, it felt weird at first. But the longer I stuck with it, the more comfortable I got. I also did it with all of the guys, just to get a better sense of how close they are. A few times, it seemed so real you’d have thought I had some sort of multiple personality disorder going on.

Strange as it sounds, that’s actually a good thing. It’s one of the reasons the stars of my books will sometimes hijack a story. And yes, if an author knows his or her characters well enough, they will let you know when you need to change direction, to deviate from the outline you’ve so meticulously plotted. When I let them have their way, what I wind up writing is always better than what I’d planned.

Today, I find myself in another “Code Red Christmas” situation. I’m not all that fond of one of the lead characters in the first book and so I’m going to fall back on that tried and true technique. I’m going to interview her. And then I’m going to interview most of the main characters from all of the books so I get a sense of who they are now – and who they were as teens.

I’m kind of excited about it, if you want to know the truth. Why? Because it’s a lot of fun.

So what’s your opinion of character interviews? If you like a series, are they something you might enjoy reading? Or do you think authors who use them should pick up the phone take the first available appointment with a mental health professional?

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