Once I’ve found the tone of a novel, I like to spend time plotting. I do a complete, often partially illegible (I write it out long-hand) outline of the entire story—major and minor plot points included. As I work, I hit roadblocks that invariably evaporate in the face of a relatively mindless activity like walking or mowing the lawn. Occasionally the roadblocks stay, and those are always created by a character.
I ran into one of those blocks the other day.
I just couldn’t get past this one scene. Time and all the usual activities didn’t help. The page I was writing on remained only a quarter filled. The scene was a key one with a new character.
So, I did what I always do to find out what the issue is. I sat down and interviewed my character.
We started off with small talk: favorite foods, favorite weapon, how they like to dress. Small stuff. Once I felt like the words were flowing, I moved on to history and character motivation, gradually progressing to motivation within the scene I was trying to get past.
The interview did not go as I imagined it might. The guy has a lot more backstory than I had originally thought, which is what was holding up the scene. A piece of that backstory clicked into place, and suddenly the scene was there, ready to be written.
I’m always amazed at how the muse chooses to speak. Character interviews certainly help me a lot. And now, with the final pieces of information in place, I have a complete outline plastered to my wall in scribbled on bits of paper.
Now I can really get down to the storytelling.