Welcome to another awesome blog chain. This one is brought to you by the fantastic Cole, who will be 29 forever (HAPPY BIRTHDAY!). Her question is:
How do you get inside your character’s world?
Usually with a crowbar and some rope. Oh. Characters. Got it. I thought you meant–
The real answer is: any way I can. Sometimes characters come up and start shouting in my ear. They tell me everything there is to know about them and lots of stuff I don’t want to know. But sometimes they’re shy and they string me along and getting info is like stealing candy from babies (which is NOT easy, btw..babies scream loud…and they bite).
There are some things I do to help me figure out my character’s world. I like to find pictures of them. Be it actors or models or random people on the street. For example, the physical appearance for my MC in Deathday Letter is modeled after this dude, who plays on a show called GREEK. There are differences of course, but it gave me a place to start.
I also use wiki’s. You know, like wikipedia. What I do is start writing info about my story and then that leads to more and more. If you know how a wiki works, the articles can start to expand exponentially, but it’s a great way to get loads of info down.
Another way is to handwrite. I’m a fast typist, but when my MC clams up, I find that talking to him or her via a fountain pen and a cool notebook helps me connect.
The best way though to get into my character’s world is to just listen. Example: I got this story in my head about this teenage boy who was living in a hospital. I didn’t know why or what he was doing. I didn’t know his real name or anything. Just that he was living in a hospital. I wanted to know why, but my MC wasn’t talking about it. He did talk about a lot of other stuff though. So I followed him around. I watched LIFE IN THE ER, I drew on my own experiences from EMT classes and the shifts I did in hospitals and on ambulances. Sometimes he told me stuff and I never knew what was true, but he told me his routine and introduced me to his friends. 66k words later, I knew everything I needed to know.
I’ve done everything to get into a character’s world from contacting a magician, to stalking Google street view, to talking with a bad British accent to my dog. But the thing that worked the best is just listening to my characters. They give me all the info I need to know.