Early last week as I was working on my new book, Almighty Whispers in Our Souls , the prequel to No Sensible People, I started to get one of those emotional kicks in the stomach from a character I never would've expected. This character, Steven Ferguson, is a bit of a jerk, as those who noticed the brief references to him might be able to attest. But as he's about to do something horrible, he started to explain why and where he was "bad" in many ways converted to being frightened and insecure, and it brought me closer to that character and the pain he feels. Even with the laptop closed, Steven Ferguson followed me. I've come to expect my major characters to follow me when I'm writing, but this one threw me for a loop.
Something similar happened to me with Lucy's somewhat sleazy husband, Frank Cartwright, in No Sensible People, and he wound up being a more significant character in the novel than I intended. He even made me cry.
When I take on a writing project-- especially a novel, I make a conscious effort to absorb myself in the "reality" of my character's situation as possible, carry them with me, even at times when I am not actively writing with the hopes of making them more authentic to me and any potential reader I might have.
I think of it as a writer's version of method acting, but more complex. To some extent a writer needs to connect with every character, even when the story is told in first person from only one point of view. Sometimes even more so, because their feelings cannot hide within an internal monologue. They have to come out in some way that's realistic to the reader.
I direct some of my own reading, and try and learn about the things they need to know. It makes summary writing hard for me, because I'm so connected to everyone and I don't want to leave anyone out. As much as writers may try to write about what they know, it's inevitable that we will run across something we still need to learn.
Gretchen Lee Bourquin's blog is syndicated weekly on Gather.com, WordPress, Amazon.com, Associated Content, and her website. Her novel, No Sensible People, is available in paperback on Amazon.com or in print and download from Lulu.com. For further updates, please consider following her on Twitter.