The second, tentative titled THE TRICKSTER'S LULLABY, deals with ISIS, Jihadism, and radicalization– hence the light summer reading. Lest people wonder whether I am turning into an international spy thriller writer, have no fear. I don't know anything about the international espionage world, and I would not even attempt to fake it. I want to write about what I know, or at least what I can learn about and hope to understand. Psychology.
To me, stories begin and end with character. Why do people make the choices they do? What pushes them to the brink? What happens to them and how do they extricate themselves. If we don't care about the character, we won't care about their story, no matter how many breathless car chases there are or how many people they sleep with.
|The new novel sits on the table, awaiting inspiration.|
Last week my fellow Type M-er Sybil posted about the value of acting lessons and improvisation skills in the creation of character. I think she was getting at the same idea. Actors immerse themselves in the character they are to play, so they can live, breathe, and imagine that character's every move. This too is about empathy, literally feeling for another. Improvisation is a tool actors use to discover their character and to probe more deeply into their feelings and needs. Reading her post, I realized I use improvisation on paper too.
At the beginning of a new novel, I don't know my characters very well. I discover them as they encounter each other and the situations I throw at them. Background character sketches can be stilted and static, whereas the characters who confronts each other on Page 4 have to come alive and react. So my initial scenes with new characters are tentative and exploratory. Sometimes, especially when I'm stuck, I throw two characters into a scene with very little idea what they're going to say or how it's going to turn out. That's the essence of improvisation. In those interactions, the germ of the scene emerges and the story races ahead. Sometimes. Other times the interaction leads to nothing and is ultimately cut from the manuscript. But it is never wasted. Through that aimless wandering, I have learned more about my characters and fine-tuned them into more interesting, layered people worthy of being in the story.
Or I have turfed them out and brought in someone better.
None of that would have happened if I hadn't climbed into their skin and let them loose to explore the story. What about others? What are your secret techniques for creating character?