The Page a Day Writers Group

Lassoing characters through aches and pains

Posted on: February 23, 2010

I’m recovering from a cold. Right now I’m verging on glee to be on my way to better- still sniffly but not a faucet. What does this have to do with fiction? I’m using my fictional eye to observe this descent-into-illness-and-now-recovering process. A cold, of course, is no big fish when it comes to illness. But I can use the way I’ve felt to get into the head (and body) of a character who is ill.

 How does someone look in the middle of a cold? Here’s a little free-write fictional snippet of mine from today:

…Her eyes, rimmed red, were set deeper today above pillowy skin with a blue cast. It looked like she’d been crying; her pink, moist nostrils quivered. But as I stepped closer to her I smelled Mentholatum. She dabbed at her nose with a tissue and then blew- hard- as she sneezed an explosion of droplets onto my jacket. Maybe she had been crying but she also had a big leaky faucet of a cold…

Well, I don’t know about my last phrase, but anyway, you see what I’m attempting to do. 

The bonus came when I pulled a muscle in my lower back, from the mundane every day motion of bending down to pull a dish towel out of a drawer. I’ve never pulled a muscle in my back before. So there I was, feeling like I was 90 years old, both hands clutching my lower back, coughing, nose running full speed. Pretty picture, huh? But fruitful!

I used my empathy net to capture my achy night for use in my fiction. Today I’m taking ibuprofen and I feel like a spring chicken (pardon the cliché). And I’m on the mend from my cold. Wow, the joy of it! But I’ve tasted the pain of back strain (add that to my knobby knee chapter) and I can walk in my characters’ shoes on many parallel sense experiences. Even if I haven’t really been where my characters have, sometimes part of me has.

Onward,

Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

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1 Response to "Lassoing characters through aches and pains"

Wow, I never thought about using my own creaks and strains as fodder for character development. I’m glad you did, though and took the time to share this insight.

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The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!

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