Tuesday, April 7, 2015

So you want to write a book Part 2: Get to know your characters

Now that you know for sure that you want to write a book, here comes the fun part, writing it.
Writing is one of the things I most enjoy doing in my life. It is equally challenging and liberating.

So why did I take seven years to write Only Human. Ok, here’s the thing, I had the concept down and had begun writing but it took me the longest time to shift from focusing on the craft of writing in favor of allowing myself to be swept by the story.

This sounds simple… it isn’t.

It took me years to have this breakthrough.

I can still remember that moment when providence arrived. I couldn’t stop writing and it is one of the most wonderful experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy.

Being frank, this is something that happens; it’s not something you can induce but you can make it a whole lot easier on yourself.

First off, get at least two notebooks (or word documents for you digital folk). One is for your work and the other one is for ideas and notes. They are BOTH capture tools but their purpose is endlessly different.

If you’re going for a novel, write down character names and then find out who they are, what do they have to say, why do they do what they do… in essence, what drives them. Do this for heroes and baddies alike. Really DIG into what makes them do the things they do.

In Only Human, Nathaniel Runnels is a jaded average Joe reporter who dreams of writing a novel. He hates his job but there’s reason behind that hate. He found out that he would not do what he wanted to do the most: seek out truth. He likes wine, he’s switched to gin and it’s a wonder he makes ends meet. Both his parents died, he has two brothers, he is agnostic and does tend to go with the flow even though that often means settling. He also always keeps his manners, something that saves his tuckus on more than one occasion.

Daniel of Montacre is a vampire who is over 400 years old. He’s a smartass, plays the violin and isn’t keen on being tied to any stereotype regarding vampires. He has been in love with Captain Jane Rivers for over half his existence and is driven by his need to save humanity so the entire world doesn’t collapse. He trusts very few people, always prepares in advance and a long life has given him the skill of supreme foresight, farther reaching than anyone could imagine.

You could say I fleshed out these characters but the reality is actually more organic. On more than one occasion I’ve crossed something off a page because Daniel would never say something like that. You know these people because although they might be characters captured in words… they’re alive. They have feelings. They have fears. They exist within.

On more than one occasion, I’ve meditated and tried to channel Daniel, to know him more in depth. It also goes deeper than just knowing a character…. It’s having a relationship with them. I’ve done the same with other characters and when in doubt, I’ve audibly asked them questions only to have my hand jot down the answer.

Spooky? You bet. But that’s how writing works sometimes; you just have to let your hand go sometimes.

By fully appreciating the nuances of each character, you get to write something that feels that much more real…. And you know why it feels that much more real?

Because it is.

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