Tip of the Day: when having a writing day it is never a good idea to sit in front of the TV as a VH1’s 100 Greatest [insert anything known to man] Special is about to begin. Five hours later, you will have no writing done, be left wondering where the day went, and in my case wishing 80’s hair bands would be revived.
Yesterday I held my own: Getting to Know Eric Day. Eric is the main love interest in my current work in progress. Given the fact, I’m almost 2/3 of the way into the manuscript, I know Eric fairly well, but yesterday I felt like I needed to get to know him better on a more personal level, since he’s a major factor in the book and I was struggling with a plot element involving him. And I’ve found whenever I’m stumped, getting to know my characters more almost always gets the writing-juices flowing again.
So I set out to think about him all day yesterday in my Getting to Know Eric Day. I wanted to know EVERYTHING about him. His strengths, his weaknesses, what he eats for breakfast, how he combs his hair, what his favorite brand of soap is, etc. Some of this I knew, but some of it I didn’t. And most of it, I knew wouldn’t end up in my book, but I was hoping it would help me anyway.
There’s several ways I’ve gotten to know characters in the past or have heard about from others, which include:
- Creating a collage: I’ve used magazines in the past to make collages of my characters, and it’s been helpful.
- Create a cast of who’d play your character in a movie.
- Shopping for characters
- Creating a character list/sheet: I do this every time, but usually only at the beginning and it often changes.
- Creating a music playlist for your book or character
Since, I already knew about my character and had written 2/3 of the book with him in it, I didn’t really need to start from scratch. I’m also a person that likes visual clues to help me, so I decided to look through magazines and clip out some info. Hoping something might catch my eye and get me through the plot point I was struggling with. This time, I was also particularly looking for a picture of someone that resembled my character.
About half way through my search, I discovered there were absolutely no pictures that worked as Eric himself and little in the way of things that reminded me of him (sure this could have been because I was searching for guy-related things in CosmoGirl and Seventeen, but that’s beside the point). So I emailed Miss Recently Repped, Deena, to vent my frustration at finding no pictures of Eric. Her response to me was: “What does he look like in your head?”
I started to really think about her question. It was an excellent question and one that despite the fact I was having a Getting to Know Eric day I hadn’t really thought about, yet.
In the process of thinking about him and writing to Deena about my character something happened, I really felt more connected to him. I started to write about the physical him and a few things about him as a person. I think I was so worried about finding a picture that represented him and trying to find out new things about him, that I was forgetting everything I already knew about him and in the process trying to make him into something else. Instead, all I really needed to do was reconnect myself with who he really was and try to explain that to someone else. And remembering that suddenly made me focus and move forward on the plot point I was struggling with. So, thank you, Deena for your great advice of making me actually “think” about my character.
Does anyone else have any tips on reconnecting with character more than halfway through your manuscript? Or from the beginning?
- Emily, Miss Awaiting An Agent