The Page a Day Writers Group

Posts Tagged ‘characters

If you’re anything like me, music is an integral part of your life.  I’m one of those people who steps out the door and wishes there was some kind of soundtrack going to greet me along with the day.  I also wish that sometimes, an entire street would break out into song like they do in a musical or a Bollywood film.  Especially since I work downtown, and that might make the whole misery of seeing endless ghost malls and the increasing number of homeless folks seem…well, just a little less dreary.

I tend to have music that I gravitate toward when I write different things, but I can pretty much listen to anything while I write because music is far less distracting than complete silence.  I can’t stand complete silence or blank walls.  I even have to sleep with a fan on at night so the white noise will lull me to sleep and keep me there.  But, sometimes, certain genres of music work better for certain pieces or certain characters.  I really got into big band swing when I was writing my first novel since it took place in 1940.

I find myself developing soundtracks for my novels.  Like I can hear certain songs and think of a particular character or scene.  For example, my bodysnatching ghost villain, Tristan Thorn, has a theme song.  It’s “He’s Evil” by the Kinks.  Every time I hear that song, I think of T.   Especially the line: “He wants your body, not your mind.”  It’s as if they’d written it for Tristan, even though that song was released when I was a tiny child.

The Kinks: "Preservation Act 2" Though this image is subject to copyright, its use is covered by the U.S. fair use laws

I’ve taken to developing soundtracks for my novels recently.  I know, it’s just another one of those things that writers do when they should be writing, but it helps sometimes.  Those songs can set the mood I need for the scene I’m about to write.  Whether it’s “Know Your Enemy” by Rage Against the Machine for the big showdown scene, or “Crazy Love” by Van Morrison when the characters start to fall in love, the music gets me where I need to go.

So, go ahead and turn up the volume or strap on your headphones.  Let the music take you.  I swear, it works!

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IMAGE CREDIT: SU Xinping (1960-) Dialogue, 1989, lithograph. Collection Art Gallery of New South Wales

I LOVE to write dialogue.  Nothing else excites me more than the sexually charged banter between my heroes and heroines.  I find it so magically delicious I can rarely wait to do it and get all that done long before I write the narrative.  Narrative looks like a lot of notes when I first start writing a new novel.

Most other writers tell me they hate the dialogue, it’s the description they love.  I honestly wish that show business was an easier medium to break in as a writer, because I’d love it if my description could be: She crosses to the bar, pours a drink and shoots it back in one swallow. I’d also love, love, love to make the kind of money TV writers make, even though they are woefully underpaid considering the salaries of the stars.

Alas, I ran from L.A. with my dignity barely intact the last time, I don’t think I’m ready for another dose.

I guess the reason why I do love writing dialogue is because of the theatre background.  I’ve read an enormous amount of plays, a few screenplays and seen an indecent amount of movies and television.  I was also the perfect archetype of the future artist throughout school.  Few would dare be seen with me so I was on my own a lot.  But I was listening.  I still do.  I am a single, childless gal, so I go a lot of places alone.  I listen in on all kinds of conversations.  Some are pretty yawn-worthy, some are good enough to get involved in, and others still are so freaky, you start looking around for Rod Serling or Allen Funt.

These are the moments which make you think ‘Oh, yeah, I’m using that!’  And remember, even the mundane conversations you hear could be spiced up if you give the characters the right subtext.

So go ahead, eavesdrop.  They’ll never know!

Reading your posts, Deb and Ondine, makes me think that we writers ought to have honorary degrees in psychoanalysis. Certainly, we invest much time and thought into understanding our characters’ (clients?) histories and motivations.

This discussion has come along at a perfect time. Occasionally, a character gets slippery. I thought I knew them well, but it turns out they are a bit of a devil and keeping some secrets. Ondine, I imagine you interrogate your characters very gently, perhaps offering them tea and biscuits, while I’ve got the swinging bare light bulb, the hard chair and overheated room, and a hefty serving of threats and coercion. But I digress…

Browsing the hero archetypes yesterday finally helped me pinpoint my newest hero as the Nice Guy, a perfect counter to Chen, the Bastard I adore. Thus it all slots neatly into place. Nice guys, will he finish last, I wonder?

 


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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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