A to Z Challenge 2013

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Blog Chain - What World Am I In? And How Did I Get Here?


Thank God today is a blogchain day, because I can talk about things that are much brighter and fun than yesterday. Yeah, don't ask me where that morbid post came from. I almost didn't post it after I re-read it, but in the end my muse grabbed the mouse and did what he wanted to do.

Enough of yesterday though. Today, I'm here to talk about characters and their worlds. Specifically, the talented Cole poses the following question:

How do you get inside your character's world?

Since I'm usually typing by the seat of my pants, I learn about my character's worlds through their eyes. Let me explain with a few examples.

In one of my WiPs, the idea for the story sprung from driving by a bowling alley's darkened parking lot. The look of the shadows and the way the streetlights cast pools of pale amber just lit my muse on fire and suddenly I had an idea. But even though the world began from a real place near my home, that didn't mean it would stay that way. My MC began to take me on a tour through the world as he worked his way through the story. I learned about the world he lives in as I wrote, rather than planning or building it.

My NaNo WiP is set on Earth in the far future, and I am still discovering all of it's intricacies as I write. I didn't initially envision an underground base deep below the city, abandoned by humanity for eons. But my characters took me there and showed me how the world had changed over the centuries. Each step they take in the story helps flesh out their world for me, and I just try to keep up.

The only exception to this freeform world-building is the first novel I attempted to write. The MC is a homeless woman on the streets of Denver, and I chose this location purposely. I've grown up here in Denver and have lived here all my life. And although the story is mostly about the character, I didn't want to put it in a city that I would have trouble describing. I felt that if I had to tell this particular story from a location I wasn't really familiar with, the focus would drift off the character as I tried to describe her surroundings.

I guess my real answer is that I am pulled into the world of my characters by the characters themselves. They are my tour guides as they walk through the story. I also know that these days my writing is description-light, because I have been concentrating on writing a good story first. I hate research (although I enjoy learning about real places, so figure that one out), which is probably why I discover the worlds in this manner.

If you missed out on my predecessor BJ's post on the subject, you need to go check it out. Tomorrow, you can read what the awesome Shaun has to say as he rounds out this topic.

17 comments:

Kat Harris said...

A dark parking lot at a bowling alley, huh? Aren't sources of inspiration a strange thing?

Great post.

Danyelle said...

Great post! This is how I do it too, and I love how you said it: "I am pulled into the world of my characters by my characters themselves"!

Keanan Brand said...

I'm generally seat-of-the-pants, too. I love it when I'm taken on those tours by my characters -- I learn, I discover, and the actual act of writing it all down is fluid. Awesome when that happens.

Eric said...

Kat - Yeah, it was weird. And so is the story, to be honest. But it's been fun to work on.

Danyelle - Glad you liked that. It's not a bad way to work it, huh? :)

Keanan - You're so right. It's awesome when I'm just rolling along with my characters and discover something 'I' didn't know about my own storyworld.

Shaun Hutchinson said...

I love the line about your characters being your tour-guides. It's so true. Great post!

Sandra said...

Characters and viewpoint make a big difference in how world-building.

BTW, your title reminded me of the song "Once in a Lifetime."

B.J. Anderson said...

This is a very cool way of getting into your character's world! And that story about the homeless Denver woman sounds really interesting. Great post!

Nisa said...

I love that. Your characters are your tour guides. That is so well said. The characters are the reader's tor guides as well. So very cool! :)

Elana Johnson said...

I'm so glad that you discover your world as you write -- that's what I do! It makes the rewriting part not so fun, but the actual first draft is so exciting!

Galen Kindley--Author said...

In fact, the characters write my story, not me. Faulkner said that he just walks around behind his characters and writes down what they do. Worked for him!

Best Wishes, Galen Kindley
Imagineering Fiction Blog

Shrinky said...

I shamelessly blend my characters from those I know, but it's okay, they rarely know, no-one EVER owns to being THAT bad (grin)..

Came over via Suldog, glad I did.

Sarah Bromley said...

It sounds like you have a really organic and fluid world-building style, and that can be so much fun as a writer 'cause stuff just happens and can surprise even you. I really enjoyed this post.

JennyMac said...

I mix my characters with personality components of people I know..but I love your approach to letting them develop as you write.

Cole Gibsen said...

I, too, love the line abuot your characters being your tour guide. So true! Excellent post :)

Natalie said...

I think I build worlds like you do. My stories tend to focus heavily on characters and the setting just evolves based on what they need.

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Yeah another pantser! I also like to let my characters pull me into the story. Great post!

Eric said...

Wow, I did not expect this many commentors, but thank you everyone (those new to Da Muse and those who stop by all the time) for all your comments. This was a really fun one to write. Stop by tomorrow too, as I am going to be starting the next chain with a topic of my own choosing. Uh oh.