When I was first writing â€œTill Death Do Us Partâ€, I didnâ€™t realize that Dori had a past love. But when Pete called her name in that scene in chapter three, my heart jolted just like Doriâ€™s. When I saw where we were going, I jumped out of my chair and paced my office. I finally turned off the computer thinking, there’s no way I can go there.
But many months later after Iâ€™d finished the story, approved the galleys and then went on to a new story, Ryan and I were watching Inside the Actor’s Studio with Clint Eastwood. In the role of Harry Calahan, Eastwood once had to jump off a bridge onto the top of a moving school bus. When James Lipton asked if he had been afraid, Eastwood replied, “No. When you’re really in the character, you can do anything.”
I realized that writing is like acting. It only becomes real when we become the character. And man, that can be scary as hell!
Even though I still run away from the computer when the story gets too real, I know that Iâ€™ll be back. Just like an actor who spontaneously discovers a new bit of dialogue or action, we writers must jump off the bridge with our characters. What Iâ€™ve come to realize is that if we don’t go there, then neither will our readers.
So when the story and the character get under your skin and it feels icky and scary and awfully itchy, just keep yourself there because thatâ€™s when the good stuff is about to happen.