Back in October, I blogged about sloppy firsts: how terrifying it is to begin that clumsy first draft of a book. And now I’m there: in the early stages of drafting a new novel. It’s exciting. It really is. I should have mentioned that in October’s post—having all the potential of a new story stretching out before you is amazing, a feeling like no other. But all the same . . .
I just finished a trilogy—which means that the last three books I’ve written have centered on the same main characters. I’ve been in their heads and they’ve been in mine every single day for the last four years. Through the births of my two girls, the excitement of first-time publication, a major move . . . and that’s just what’s happened in my life, never mind theirs.
I was talking to my husband about how strange it feels to be writing through new characters’ eyes, characters that I’m only just getting to know and who just don’t yet talk to me in the same way my old ones did. And he said, “So basically you and your characters are on an awkward first date right now.”
Yes! That is EXACTLY where my characters and I are. We are fiddling nervously with our breadsticks, taking gulps of our ice water to cover uncomfortable pauses in conversation, saying things like, “So, where did you grow up?”
It’s a tricky prospect, getting to know not just the dressed up, best-behavior, first-date versions of your characters, but all their quirks and hidden secrets and fears, as well. Because I’ve found it’s not just a matter of asking them. I mean, who goes on a first date prepared to talk at length about that hideously embarrassing episode in seventh grade—or that really annoying bad habit—or the first boy to break your heart?
So how do you get there, to the point where your characters will open up, tell you things they’d never share with anyone else?