It helps me to see my characters when I’m writing a story. So, often, at the very beginning of a project, I’m on the search for faces that fit the person developing in my mind. I’ll cut out or print out pictures of people and pin them to a bulletin board or have an album section in my WIP (work-in-progress) binder. My binder holds everything: research notes, timelines, historical data, interviews, glossary (graffiti terminology in the case of The Masterpiece), Scriptures, and character pictures and analysis. I had a lot of notes on the psychology of trauma victims for this book.
All during the process of writing, I’m reviewing these materials and adding to them. Since I write “by the seat of my pants,” I don’t know where I’m going. This book took several drafts, and objective readers to ask the right questions that made me dive in again and go deeper. It’s not fun to go deeper. Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning. And once you get to know your characters, their imagined pain can feel real. That’s the point of writing. To make the reader feel and experience the life of the character.
Everything a writer knows or feels about a character doesn’t end up in the story. We don’t even really know ourselves! We often think we do, but how do others perceive us? I know of one person who is very shy, but others perceive her as aloof, even arrogant. Why? Because she doesn’t talk easily with people she doesn’t know. Some think an outgoing, natural public speaker is “phony.” Others condemn an angry person, not considering that anger often comes from deep pain and wounds that have never healed. A deeply wounded survivor of trauma can appear defiant, hard, self-sufficient. My goal is to show the exterior while drawing the reader into the interior. It’s hard work and I’m not always as successful as I want to be.
The storyboard and WIP binder help me focus and keep my head above water while trying to see which direction to take toward shore.