Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Getting to know you, getting to know all about you...

A link to this post popped up on the SinC Guppies Yahoo Group and given the title, I thought it was about "Taking Fictional Characters on a Road Trip". The post is actually more about the importance of scouting when using actual locations in your stories and the equal importance of consistency if you create your own world, because either way your eagle-eyed viewers will let you know if you get something wrong.

It's a terrific post and well worth a read, but the way it was presented on the list got me thinking about, well, actually taking my characters on the road with me. There are so many possible ways to do it.

You could have one or more of your characters join you next time you're on a trip. Preferably alone in a car as your non-writer family/friends/co-workers probably wouldn't understand your need to confer with your imaginary friend(s). Ditto flying, I'm guessing it might send up a red flag among the flight crew and other passengers. But if you can get them alone, it could be enlightening to find out how they react to certain things or what they decide to share about themselves while stuck in a car with you for an extended period of time. Or you could solve the talking to yourself issue by having the interactions in your head and jotting down notes. After all, you are a writer. The simple act of writing shouldn't send up an alarm, at least not the way talking to someone only you can see would.

Or maybe just drag them along with you the next time you're running errands. Again, I'd leave them in the car or keep the interactions to yourself. Sure, you're never going to see any of those people in Costco again, but why risk attracting the attention of security guards? They also might not understand the writing explanation, unless their rapidly dwindling book section carries your latest, in which case congratulations, you've just become a celebrity at your local big box store. But for a lot of us that's getting ahead of ourselves. We've got to get the books written first and to do that we need to get to know the people who are going to populate our stories.

Or just go for a drive with them. You don't have to be going or doing anything in particular. Just spend some time alone with them, getting to know them.

I think it's a great way to get to know your characters and flesh them out. It also might build scenes for your story. It's a legit question - how would my detective kill time while waiting for his car to go through the wash? With nothing to do but sit and wait, could that be the moment he puts two and two together and finally IDs the killer? If my protagonist is fed up with her life, is that the moment, while watching her car getting sudsed up from behind a pane of glass, that she finally makes the decision that's she's done with this world? Or will the sight of her car being wiped clean make her feel like she can make a fresh start and try to plow through a little longer? Will one of my supporting characters poke fun at my supermarket purchases or will they want to join me for dinner when they see what I've bought? How happy - or not - will my suspects be when I drag them to a farmer's market? What books would catch their eye at Barnes & Noble?

I don't expect them to hang out at home with me. While I love and need my solitude, I understand it's boring to other people. Watching someone write, clean house and binge watch shows is not exciting. And I don't necessarily want them around all the time. But the more I think about this, the more I feel like I just stumbled onto a brilliant way to develop my characters. I feel like they just got a lot more interesting.

Keep them talking.

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