The psychiatrist and I sat in a cafe, my digital recording device propped up on the table between us. I held both a fork and a pen in my right hand, though I wasn’t much interested in the salmon on my plate. It had taken me a couple of years to find an expert in this secretive area who would agree to speak with me, and I was focused on noting down everything my interview subject said.
While trying to work through the problems in an early draft of my WIP, I’d been more than a little dismayed to discover I’d gotten a key personality aspect of one of my primary characters wrong. A person who did what this character does for a living wouldn’t react to the trauma I’d given him in some of the ways I’d written. I’d been appalled at my error–character is supposed to be my strength!–and ultimately ripped out an entire thread of the storyline after I realized how substantially this mistake rippled through the plot.
I began to repair the story the way I’d begun the initial building of it: with character. I dug deeper into this character’s psyche, asked him more questions, considered his life again, until I had a better idea of who he was, how he came to be that person and how he would react in any given situation–including the trauma that sets the plot in motion.
But after I found my answers, I wanted confirmation. For years, I’d searched for a psychiatrist who understood the minds of this particular category of people who harbor an intense aversion to talking about themselves. Then, one day, as I perused a trade publication for former spies (yes, there is such a thing), I found an article about a psychiatrist who seemed like a good prospect. I contacted him, and he agreed to meet with me.
I prepped my subject beforehand about my project. Over lunch, he confirmed that my new approach to my character was realistic. I was thrilled (okay, relieved), and we continued chatting about my book. The additional conversation was fine with me, because I had discarded at least three dozen attempts to cover the gap in my plot and at this point, I was considering entertaining suggestions from anyone I might encounter on the street.
“It could be great fun,” he said. “Your protagonist could go to [a specific, chaotic, war-torn country] where your other character is doing his own thing. There’s so much potential in that…”
I actually heard two clicks in my head. I smiled at my lunch partner and leaned back in my chair. I momentarily stopped listening, and I considered those clicks. [Read more…]