Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Characters in Search of An Author

Time for another spin through the blog chain, and Cole has started things off with this question:

How do you get inside your character's world?

In her post Cole admits to more or less stalking her characters. And while I am always impressed - in awe even - by writers who go that extra mile and really get down and dirty with the research, my attitude has always been a bit more laid back. Unlike Cole, instead of stalking my characters, I go in the completely opposite direction and play hard to get with them.

Like Rebecca (who was directly before me on the chain, check out her awesome post here) my characters just generally show up in my brain one day. And like most characters, they're a little self-involved - you know, constantly wanting to talk about themselves. And that's fine... to a certain extent. But come on, I haven't even sat down to write yet, if they tell me every last thing it could make the putting it down on paper part a little dull.

That's why when my characters first show up I don't let them chatter on incessantly, but instead carefully interview them for the job of hero/heroine of my story. It kind of goes like this:

HEROINE: Okay, so I'm twenty-eight, and I have really pretty brown hair that gets kind of curly when it's humid out, and my eyes are --

ME (interrupting): Yeah, not interested. So tell me what is it you want, and what's stopping you from getting it?

HEROINE: Oh, okay... um, okay well, when I was twelve my mother told me that I'd never--

ME (interrupting again. very rude of me, I know): No, no, no. Not your backstory. Geez. I know you've got skeletons in your closet, but we don't need to pull them all out right now. So let's focus, what's your problem right now.

Once we get the interview over, I'll look at some other characters as well: love interests, best friend, villains, etc. Throughout it all I try to stay on the same "need to know" basis.

So, does that mean I start writing with a lot of unknowns and question marks surrounding my characters. Why yes, yes it does. And couldn't that potentially lead to some inconsistencies when the first draft is done? Yeah, sure. But I'm cool with that, and isn't that what first drafts are for?

And when I finish that first draft I'll know a lot more about my characters than I did when I started. That's because as I go along I'm going to throw my characters in different situations and see how they react. Whether it's their head or their hearts being broken, I'm gonna find out what they're thinking while it's happening, and for me that's the really fun and surprising part of writing.

Okay, well that's all for me this ---

What's that you say? That this is all just a bunch of crap to cover up the fact that I don't like to research and avoid it like the plague? How dare you. I am Offended. And Outraged. And some other feeling that starts with O and fits this situation. Really, that is, well that is just...

Well, it's true is what it is. Or partially true, at least. Cause all that stuff I already said isn't crap. I really do like the fun and surprise of writing without having everything one hundred percent figured out, and if this oh so conveniently works with my 'we don't need no stinkin' research' philosophy... well, then that's just lucky for me.

Okay, that's really all for me. To keep following this chain head on over to Amanda's blog and find out how she climbs into her characters' world.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

If I Could Turn Back Time

This time on the blog chain Rebecca started things off with this question:

What is the best mistake you've made so far in your journey as a writer? How has that mistake helped you grow :)?

I really love the way that this question is phrased, how it asks us to reflect on our "best" mistakes - because part of the writing journey is allowing ourselves the freedom to make mistakes... and then resigning ourselves to the endless rounds of edits and revisions it will take to fix them all. And in that spirit I have to say that all of my mistakes are my best ones, and all of them have allowed me to grow as a writer.

Of course, this doesn't mean that I never make the same mistake twice - in fact I often make the same mistake dozens of times over, but my experience has taught me the best way to quickly find and weed out these types of mistakes from my manuscripts. And just to keep things from getting dull I make new writing mistakes quite often as well.

What are the best writing mistakes that you have made? And to keep following this chain - head over to Amanda's blog.