So, this is my question in this week's Blog : How much reseach do you do? How close are you really to all those fictional people in your work?
I was always told that it's easier, and best, to write about things that you know. I suppose, as a romance writer, that's pretty straightforward as we deal with emotions on a daily basis and that is the main ingredient in a romance novel.
But what about writing about things that you don't know much about...Crime? History? Science Fiction? All these genres, and probably many more, have elements that you possibly know nothing about. That's where the above maxim fails. In fact, if I'm honest, I tend to believe that sticking to writing about what you know could be quite constraining. Why not broaden your horizons? Dig a little?
And that brings me on to the second question....How close do you feel you are to your characters?
I'm something of an organic writer, in that I do a little planning and plot structure before I get started, but once the ink is flowing and my muse is running with the wind, I let my characters dictate events. Okay, I confess, I have spider maps and list of chapter contents, but I tend to try and let my characters tell the story.
However, I have learned from one big mistake....You need to know your characters for this to work. I used to do all of the above and then write. I had an image of my characters in my head and used to just stick to that. The trouble was, this made my characters seem one dimensional and difficult for the reader to visualise or get to know, never mind fall in love with. It also often left mw with the inevitable saggy middle.
The answer? Well, I now have what I have labelled "Character Profile Sheets". One of these is completed for every character, even the minor ones. It includes everything from their physical attributes, their likes and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses and anything else that will help me get to know the character. I also clip a picture of the character to it. These are obtained from the Net or catalogues and magazines.
I might not use all this information but it is there in case I do, and I think that my characters are more rounded now that I take the time to do this. How do you get acquainted with your characters? It would be great to hear any tips that you have.
Getting back to research...I was chatting to a lovely man called Josh, from the RSPB, earlier this week. He asked if I could include him in one of my novels. He also asked if I could set it in rural Lichenstein, a place I know very little about so might have to broaden my horizons...Hmm....me thinks there could be some research to do there!