Blog Chain: Going into the minds of my characters

Welcome to another blog chain round. The topic was chosen by the fabulous Cole, and I must say, it’s AWESOME!

How do you get inside your character’s world?

For me, world building is a delicate balance between providing enough information to your readers so they can be squarely in the world with you, and info-dumping….something none of us really want to do.

When I get an idea for a story I stew on it for months. During that time I research about the world I’m going to create for my characters. Since most of my urban fantasy stories are based on mythology, I reread the particular mythology I am interested in – over and over and over.  As I do this, the world begins to “unfold” around me for lack of a better word.

This is when my true creative process takes place. I’m a very visceral and visual person. So when my world unfolds to me…I am “literally” in that world. And given my obsessive nature…I “live” in that world until the manuscript is done (at least the rough draft). My muse is fed through music – soundtracks by the likes of Zimmer’s Batman Begins, or Jablonsky’s Transformer series. Through the music, my visualization skills take over and I create a world that plays like a movie in my thoughts. 

Once I get myself into the world of my story, I go through a series of questions – specifics about the setting I need to know for the storyline.  What are the specific settings/scenes? What does that world look like?” What are the “rules” of the world I have created – this is the important part as it is important not to disrupt your rules, once you have created them.

Do the characters live in multiple worlds? (Many of mine do) – How does that happen? How do they travel from place to place? Is there another way to do that…those kinds of things.

Once I am clear on some of the bigger things, I get into the nitty detail – the specifics about the various places the story takes place. This is where the fun comes in! As I wander into each new scene, I assume the POV of the character I’m writing from. I ask myself things like, what do I hear, see, smell, touch. What am I feeling? Etc.  The characters tell the story through me this way. My job as the author is to find the words and writing style to tell the story THEY are trying to tell.

I think the hardest part of world building is not getting a sense of the world itself…its’ staying there, and preventing author intrusion and info dump. For me, staying “in voice” is the key – I have to stay with the “characters” throughout the writing process. I want the story to reflect them and their happenings, not me and mine.

This is where my obsessive, theatrical approach really helps. As I said before, I live the world/life of my characters as I write. This is true for the first draft and every single one of the revisions. It is an activity in which I have a singular focus – that of the story I am creating.

And honestly, that is probably why I love it so much…it is one of the ONLY activities in which I truly have “one mind” – “one focus”.

So, enough about me and my process…what about you? How do you approach world-building? 

Check out Kat’s fabulous post on this topic yesterday, and Sarah’s take tomorrow.

12 thoughts on “Blog Chain: Going into the minds of my characters

  1. Great post, Christine! I use music as a muse a lot, too. Sometimes songs with lyrics, sometimes not. I’m a lot like you–I have to completely live in the world I am building to get into the characters’ heads.

  2. Chantal Kirkland

    Man, I love hearing that other authors do this, too. I eat, sleep, and breath my characters…even talking like them sometimes. My husband thinks it’s hilarious.

  3. Dude, establishing a world for a character is the hardest thing for me to do. It takes so much to know how everything works, how the characters fit in, how they react, etc. And most of time the world has to be a barrier to the character and that’s even harder.🙂

  4. Sarah Bromley

    Music is a huge part of my world-building and characterization as well. And like others have said, I really admire how you can focus on a project. Great post, Christine!

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