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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Viewing the World Through the Eyes of Your MC

For those of you who follow me on Facebook know that in the recent month, I’ve kidded about how I’ve eaten at local Cincinnati area chili and pizza places in order for character research. And to be fair, the MC of my WIP is a foodie, so eating for character research is not too far of a stretch. All joking aside, I do like to get inside my character’s mind and get a feel for him/her.

Some ways that I have done this include the following:

  • I’ve gone to a local shooting range and fired the specific weapon (Glock 19) used by the special agents in my current WIP. I’d never used a gun before, and I wanted to know what it was like. Also, one of my special agents is a female, and I wanted to know what it was like for a female to use a gun.
  • I’ve listened to music that helps me understand my character and feel like them and for them. My current MC has reasons to turn his back on God. Today I listened to Sinking by Jars of Clay in my car.  
This song makes me think of my MC, and maybe it sounds weird, but listening to the song helps me with character development. I’ve also done this with a party scene for Dog Tags. I listened to lively music and tried to imagine what the party would look like. 
  • I’ve corresponded with experts who can help me understand my character. I’ve written to a retired special agent and asked him questions pertinent to my WIP. I contacted the Agency mentioned in my WIP and asked them for help in locating research materials. I belong to a crimescenewriters forum on Yahoo, where I ask questions. I’ve called local SWAT, and I’ve had someone in law enforcement help review my story. BTW, Wes Harris, is a great resource; his Website is http://writecrimeright.com. I’ve also contacted Jeannie Campbell, aka the Character Therapist, who is another great resource when it comes to character psychology. I could go on and on, but I have friends with medical, legal, and law enforcement expertise that I go to when I need help with research.
  • I read about real people similar to my characters. For Dog Tags, I read about Marines (especially books with different viewpoints) to help me get a feel for my MC, Mark Graham. For my current WIP, I read The Cyanide Canary.
  • I visit places that my characters visit. My WIP is set in Cincinnati. I live nearby, so I’m familiar with the area. I wanted to include a certain restaurant in my story, and so my husband took me there for our anniversary (plus, the food was good).
  • I uncover speech patterns. I have a British character in my WIP, and I’ve spent time online trying to learn colloquialisms that I can incorporate into dialogue. In Dog Tags, I made sure that Mark sounded and thought like a Marine, and Beth sounded and thought like a teacher.

Mark - He couldn’t blame her if she dishonorably discharged him from her life and never spoke to him again.

Beth - Mark sent her the same look as a middle school student who’d just received a detention.

How have you tried to view the world through the eyes of your MC?


2 comments:

  1. Great examples, Heidi. I've done a few of the things you describe. For inner arcs, I also try to read books that help me understand my character's psyche better. And sometimes I just let my main character write answers to questions. It's amazing what you learn when you ask the right questions. :)

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  2. Great tips, Heidi. You can tell when authors have done their homework by the authenticity of their characters. Thanks for the mention of writecrimeright.com!

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