Saturday, February 20, 2010

Blog Chain: Creating New Worlds



Blog Chain time again! This round's topic was chosen by the ever awesome Cole, who wanted to know:


How do you get inside your character's world?

You know, to be honest, I read this question and my first thought was "I don't know! I just do!"

So I had to take a second and think about what I do when I start writing and building that world. I think at first, I just sort of have an idea of how things are. A character, a storyline pop into my head and they are a part of a world. I explore that world as I write. With each scene, the world gets a little more detailed as my character's go different places and experience different things.

I'll get to spots where I need to research something, details about what could or would be in the world in which my character lives (were there toilets in 1855? Does it snow in Nevada? What would a 200 year old tombstone look like?)

I love researching the details. It makes my worlds come alive and helps me create something real and fantastic.

I do find pictures that are similar to my character's world. I'll often use these as my desktop picture, just to keep me in the right mood. For example, my latest book has a pyramid of rocks as one of the key locations - there is an actual Pyramid Rock in Nevada that I use in my book. I did change things about it...exactly where it is set, etc. But my storyline revolves more around things Egyptian. So I have a picture of the Giza Pyramids as my desktop background....because they get me in the right mind frame.

I will often see locations and think "ooooo that would make such a cool location for a story!" Like the Pyramid Rock. Or the cemetery next door to my house. When I find locations like that, I do try to take or find pictures of them because they often will trigger storylines and scenes. I don't describe them exactly as they are in real life. They are more like the starting point for my storyworld. So it's never exact.

And I never do this for my actual characters. I might see someone in real life that has the same features as one of my characters. And I might see someone that I think might be a cool character in a book. But I don't think I've ever seen someone and thought "Ooo, that is my character!" It's more often going to be something like "Ooo, that guy has the same hair and eyes as Bryant" or something along those lines. I'm not sure why, but I think trying to describe something I'm looking at is harder for me than describing something I'm seeing in my own mind.

As I do revisions and rewrites, my characters and their world become more detailed, more vivid, more real to me. I learn more about them and their surroundings. It's sort of like in the first draft is our first meeting. I had a vague idea of who and where they were, but the more we meet, the more I get to know them and their world. And that helps to make revisions a little more fun and exciting...knowing that I'm going to come across something new and interesting about my storyworld. :)

How about you? How do you get into your characters' worlds? Do you find pictures of people and places or go by that fun movie playing in your head?

If you haven't read it yet, head over to Sandra's blog for her take on the subject and be sure to visit Kat tomorrow to see how she gets inside her characters' worlds :)

17 comments:

Lisa Marie Miles said...

I wrote screenplays for a while, and found them easier to write if I cast them with actors. I just started my first YA novel and I did the same thing. I have three main characters so the photos help me keep their voices different.

Christine Fonseca said...

nice...I just love reading this chain!

Angela said...

I would like to be a blog chain member and participate. This is an interesting question. I'm new to this blog, so please advise :). Can I address the question in my blog, with a link back to your's?

Michelle McLean said...

Hi Angela :) We actually have a set membership for the Blog Chain so we can rotate topic choosing and keep it organized. We do add new members from time to time so I'd be happy to bring you up with the group. If you could email me (the Contact Me button is on my sidebar) I'll let you know when we have an opening :)

But everyone is always welcome to join in and answer the question on their blog with a link back to one of the members on our chain (on the sidebar). We love reading other writers' answers to the questions. I look forward to reading your answer! :)

L.T. Elliot said...

You have similar methods to me. I love to have a picture nearby to keep me in the right mindset and I just love to explore my character's worlds.

Jemi Fraser said...

I love the research part of writing - getting the world clearly into my head is fun!

Cole Gibsen said...

I do the same thing with the desktop image. For the longest time mine was cherry blossoms ;)

Sandra said...

I agree with you that details and research are important. Sometimes it is necessary to tweak real places and people to make them work in your stories, though.

Lisa Amowitz said...

Cool, Michelle! As I read this, I realized that I often "build a set" in my mind where my books take place, even before I "people" them with characters. I almost always start with some upstate NY town I stayed in and make a kind of Frankenstein pastiche of the locale in my mind. Even though I live in the city, I almost never set my stories here. I guess, for me, it lacks the atmosphere I find in rural areas. Oh..but I do enjoy keeping my settings somewhat ordinary and letting the extraordinary events unfold.

Jennifer Major said...

That's a great idea to post a picture similar to your story by your computer!! I listen to music from my character's world but a picture may be better in some ways.

Michelle McLean said...

Jennifer - I do the music also :D I have playlists for all my books and am constantly writing down the titles of songs I want to add to the lists. My husband gives me the eye roll when I hear a song and grab a piece of paper to write it down because it evoked some emotion I want to capture in a particular scene :D

Eric said...

This is another interesting look into how you do things, Michelle. I can't imagine "enjoying" research myself, but I envy someone like you who does. Great post.

Sarah Bromley said...

I frequently take pictures of things that I see that would make an awesome setting piece for a story. Great post, Michelle!

B.J. Anderson said...

I post pics on my desktop that correlate to my story, too! I had a picture of Venice up there for the longest time, and I loved it so much!! :D

Kat Harris said...

I will often see locations and think "ooooo that would make such a cool location for a story!" Like the Pyramid Rock. Or the cemetery next door to my house. When I find locations like that, I do try to take or find pictures of them because they often will trigger storylines and scenes.

I do the same thing!

Shaun Hutchinson said...

That's awesome about using the pictures of places, and it's a great tool.

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

I like your description of the first draft as the first meeting of your characters - that is a very cool way to look at it!