Lately I’ve been formulating an idea for a science fiction story that one day popped into my head while I was watching Doctor Who. When I told my manager and my editor about the idea that I had, they were fairly shocked that I’d come up with it since, like I said, normally I write romances. They bombarded me with questions that I knew I would have to consider in order to write this as a story.
The one question they asked that stumped me was what kind of characters was I going to have?
I honestly had to think about that answer for a while, and even still I’m not sure if it’s exactly what I want, but I explained to them that I didn’t want this story to be the same as I’ve written, where my characters learn to adapt to their faults just by watching and interacting with each other. And I most certainly didn’t want any John Smiths or Mary Sues. I knew very well what I didn’t want, but I didn’t know what I wanted for my characters.
So it got me to thinking, and I know I’ve had a lot of advice about this from the writers and members of RocNaNo, but I realized that I needed to mold my characters to the story that I wanted. But what foundation would I have? I had no basis for my characters, no template.
Then I had an idea. There’s one part of my story that involves images–pictures, photos–and I knew that I wanted one of my characters to be really in to photography. So I went undercover.
While I lacked internet access and computer access, I took a notepad, a pen, a camera, and a pair of sunglasses. For a few weeks I have been my character. Well, as much as I can be because I clearly can’t be a male for a few weeks and then turn back again. I took pictures of everything, even if they were the crappiest pictures I’ve ever seen. For a few weeks I was a photographer that was somehow going to end up changing the world with a second character.
Oh, I played him too. I was also a laid-back, intelligent slacker for a few weeks, which was nice, even if my family didn’t like it.
I also did some interviews on Facebook, thanks to my old high school friends that thought I was writing an English biography about them. Hey–I had to do it.
But the thing that I found, and forgive me if this is lengthy, is the reason why I liked writing in the first place. I liked pretending to be characters that I could never be in real-life. Was it challenging? Of course it was. Especially with holding down two jobs, too. So the best advice that I can give is to give over to your characters. Let them rule you as you get to know them, because in your writing, that’s when you master them. You can see what they see. You can be in your story, just as you would want your readers to be.