I’m at the point where I’m really, really getting into the new story (but mostly in my head). I’ve got pages filled with notes about the story and the series, but not much in the writing department yet (ETA: I just saw that Marjorie Liu describes a method very similar to what I did to arrive at that point — the bubbles, the free association, the connections within the book and the series as a whole.) Or in the other Things I Do To Immerse Myself In The Story department. Once I have in mind characters and the way they look, talk, their class and education, little scenes, brainstorm the general plot and get an idea of the tone I think I’ll take, I:
- Make a collage of places, people, and random images that tie into the book and give me visual cues. This goes onto my desktop background, and I see it every time I turn on the computer.
Do I use actors/models? Yes. I know some people don’t do this, but I get an image in my head of what I want the person to look like, then go to Google Images and do searches. And then I might hit on an actor/model that has the right expression, the right smile, something…and I go from there. Their character roles and real lives don’t really play into it — although I have to admit, with my model for Colin (in DEMON MOON) there were eerie similarities that popped up. And the guy even played a vampire in a movie once. Heh. All because when I was writing the very, very first version of DA and wanted an image of a secondary character (who, at that point, I thought would stay secondary) one visual still in Google Images made me stop and say, “Holy crap, that’s him! Look how spoiled and boyish and vain he looks in that picture!” (Except Colin is a gazillion times more beautiful.) And then the image evolves and deepens with the character. Colin started out simply vain in my head, but then he took on layers. So did the collage.
But not every picture that model/actor has taken works. It’s all about the image, not the person — and in photos where the actor’s real personality shows and conflicts with my character’s, it’s like…yuck. I don’t know, it just doesn’t work.
Will I mention who? I think I have a few in the past, but I won’t here. I know when I’m reading I imagine who I want; as a writer, I don’t know that I want to push an image of an actor onto anyone else, when for me, those images are about the character. (Aside: I just read a novella this morning where the hero was described as being “Brad Pitt-handsome” and it annoyed me for the rest of the book. If you MUST use Brad Pitt as your model for your hero (which, although I wouldn’t choose Brad, I’d totally understand) then describe what Brad Pitt looks like…don’t just tell us he looks like Brad Pitt. Particularly in the narrative. If a character, in dialogue or internal monologue, thinks “My god, he’s got a pouty Brad Pitt-bottom lip” that might work. But don’t please please tell me in the narrative that he looks like Brad Pitt. /end rant.)
- Make a song list for my car. Some of them are for me, and don’t have as much to do with the story as much as creating the story. Others fit the tone. Others are what I think the characters would be listening to. I add and delete songs as I go along. Some songs carried over from one book to the next. I don’t listen to music when I write, though (unless you count the stuff piped in at Starbucks — which, for the most part, I can tune out). The first song for the new project (tentatively: DEMON NIGHT) is “The Boxer” by Simon and Garfunkel. The second, “Light Up My Room” by The Barenaked Ladies.
- Research. The only bad thing about research is that I end up on tangents, and I start thinking: OMG, that would be cool if I could…(insert idea)! Sometimes, that really works. Other times…it doesn’t.
- Write my ass off.
I find that after a while, I’m so into the story that even when I’m not writing it, I’m thinking it. Eating it (seriously — I’ll be eating and think: would X enjoy this? have ever eaten this?) It’s all story, all the time. It doesn’t do great things for my marriage or my mothering skills, but it does make it easier to get back on the computer and get it OUT.
And then when I’m done with the story, I:
- Type THE END and stop writing.
- Take the CD out of my car.
- Get rid of the collage.
It’s painful, sometimes. I just took a look at my DEMON MOON collage while writing this post, and immediately thought: God, I miss you guys.
And then went on to search for new pictures.