As anyone who interacts with me on Facebook knows, I got a little tense this election week. Not that that’s unusual. And I doubt I was the only one here who wasn’t getting much work done in the last few days. At the same time, I can’t really afford to take time off, given the deadlines I’ve got going on, even if most of them are self-imposed.
But the Universe lined itself up for me,as it so often does. Actually, some people would say it ALWAYS does, even if that’s not the way it looks on the surface. But that’s another blog!
I just finished a second draft of my new book, BLOOD MOON, and I don’t know about you all, but I find it REALLY REALLY hard to take the advice I am always giving other writers: to take time off in between drafts of a manuscript. Even when I know it’s the best possible thing I can do for the next draft. But the next logical step in my process required research, in fact, a research trip to San Francisco. I know, I know, rough life. So on Tuesday I just got in the car and drove up, meaning I got to watch election returns in downtown Oakland (massively fun and obviously a huge party…)
And now I’m running around the city to locations I’m using in the book.
Now, I lived in the Bay Area for years, it’s not lke I don’t know what I’m writing about. But there is nothing like revisiting a city, neighborhood, park, street, whatever, while you are in the headspace of your characters, looking specifically for those details that will color in your book. And that’s really how I think of it – coloring in. I have the outlines of the story, but now I have to add those layers of light and shadow, color and sound and smell. And the feeling of being in a place.
I did a great panel at Bouchercon this year and the fabulous moderator, Daniel Palmer, who knows my acting background, asked if I used acting techniques to develop character. And of course I do. I don’t think about doing it, its just something I’ve done for so long that I couldn’t imagine not doing it. A lot of conveying emotion on stage is about creating that emotion inside of you, first, and then layering on the physical manifestations of that emotion so that the audience feels it, too.
So all this walking around in the actual physical world of my story is what really helps me to get the sensual reality of that world and whatever the characters are experiencing onto the page. I need to FEEL it. I can do research online and read books, and craft an approximation of an experience from that research and my own memoreies of experience, but it’s a lot harder for me than being there in person. In fact I have been doing so much walking that I can barely move at night, but it’s the only way I really know how to do this. Driving it won’t cut it.
But I’m a really physical person. Kinetic learner, psychologists call it. And the kind of writing I like to do and read is a lot about creating a sensory experience. I realize that not everyone is like this, because there are books out there that do very little to create a sensory experience., and people buy them anyway, so someone must be getting something out of them. But that kind of book rarely does anything for me. I want all six senses n ny books – especially that sixth sense of SENSING – the unseen stuff, the things that make your skin tingle. Synchronicities. A smell that takes you back to your childhood. Walking into the exact scene that you have been thinking about, and realizing the epiphany that your character will have there.
So for today I’m wondering – are you guys aware of what experiences you most want to read or create in a book, the way I find sensory experience (including the visual) my prime pleasure in reading? What is that draw for you, and what do you do in terms of reearch and craft to create that? Does acting technique play a part?
Or in reading, which authors/books are great examples of the experience you most want in a book?
(Sorry for the typos and short post today – I’m working on my iPad, which is not an optimum blogging experience!)