Tips for Getting Into Character
Many artists and creative people talk about "awaking the muse." This is a place in your mind where you’re running on automatic pilot. That creatively part known as the right side of the brain is fully engaged and the left side, aka the logical side, is snoozing with one ear open, always ready to be reawakened for problem solving. It is in this state that people often get lost in an activity, lose track of time, and produce some of their best creative work.
When you’re getting into character, it’s best to be poke your muse (a popular facebook game). Approach these fiction writing exercises when you’re calm and relaxed and willing to let your imagination override your logical thinking.
How do you do this? Before sitting down to take on any writing venture, find a way to relax: walking, yoga, gardening (works wonders for me, btw) swimming. You can also meditate or simply take a few minutes to lie down and relax and free your mind of the day's stresses. Listen to music, but keep it calm. Don't blast your Muse or heavy metal mp4s. Instead, choose something relaxing and meditative. Once your mind is still, you’ll be ready to get into your character's mind.
Exercise #1: A chat with your character (Don't be laughing now)
We do it online all of the time. There are people we meet on facebook, twitter, goodreads, etc. and we instantly strike up a conversation with them that just kind of flows. Suddenly, you're thinking: "Wow! It feels kind of like I've known this person forever." One thing you probably will find is that you learn an awful lot about this person through a few simple lines. Try this with your character. But instead of entering your conversation in a box, write out the dialogue in a short blurb.
Exercise #2: Stand-in Situation
Put your character in a situation and see how she handles it. If you’re already working on a story, then try removing your character from it and placing him a completely different setting. Think of riveting scenes from books you’ve read or movies that you’ve seen, or use scenes from your own life.
Here's an example of one way I introduced my lead character the Seraphine Trilogy to readers:
My name is Caleb Wood.
I’m 17-years-old and I attend Ashley George High School on the Isle of New Bern in North Carolina. I live in a house that’s near the beach and drive a midnight blue Challenger with rims that glow in the dark. Right. So basics are out of the way now.
A long time ago, I almost drowned. Yeah, yeah, I know. That sounds pretty stupid right? But here’s the thing, though. I didn’t croak in the ocean that day. Something, or rather, someone saved me. I dream about this girl all of the time. It’s like this really weird thing has happened to me. I can’t explain it. I just know that for the first time in my short life, I feel like I can’t breathe. I don’t know. It’s hard to explain.
I wonder if I’ll ever know who she is. Will she haunt me, torture me, and possess my soul forever?
So tell me, what should I do? Should I look for her? Or do I need to just let it go?
Nah. I can’t do that. I have to know who she is? It all started with that kiss.
The power inside of a kiss is a hypnotic thing, a mystical force, the beginning of my obsession.
I wrote that letter sometime long before I actually finished the last draft. But from inside of it I pulled three vital aspects of my character:
1) His name and age
2) His tagline (The power inside of a kiss line)
3) The romantic aspect of this male POV's personality
Try something like these exercises when you need to truly feel as though you're creating a living breathing character. Both you and your readers will benefit from your conversations with your muse.
Yours in Prose,