Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Talk to your characters...

OK, just have to get this off my chest.

I admit it.

I talk to my SciFi series characters, Jake and Arlo.

The cool part is that they talk back. ;-)

No, I can't hear them, folks, I'm not that far gone. (Yet).

It didn't start out they way, and it doesn't always work, but most of time I set them in motion and watch the fun.

I talk to them while I'm writing a scene and then just let my imagination guide my fingers. I type out a scene in simple bullets. Then I go back and fill in the bullets with dialogue and 'color'. I keep adding bullets and filling in the gaps with character movements, dialogue and adding environment and action.

There's also a lot of 'nah, that's stupid' and rewriting but that's OK.

But it really is a cooperative effort. As Arlo and Jake 'grew up' in book one, it became easier and easier to just let them work things out on their own. I'm on book four and it's a more fun than I can describe to you.

Jake has a lot of me in his persona. I intended that way. I spent 9 years in the nuclear Navy, mostly on fast attack subs and shipyards, though I spent time in Idaho as an instructor. Yes. Idaho. I trained students to operate nuclear/steam power plants on the submarine prototype for the Nautilus, the first nuc sub. Weird, right?! Then I've spent the next forty years as a software developer.

Jake's back story has a lot of me in it. You're supposed to write about things you know or have experienced. Honestly, that part has been a lot of fun. I've taken lots of experiences I had in the Navy and in the software biz and molded them into situations in the 'Arlo and Jake' series.

And that's helped my characters 'talk' to me. I can play the scene in my head and on paper and then think back on times in the service or in the code mines that are similar.

We said and did some really outrageous things back when I first entered the Navy. We were young and stupid, that's the gist of it. Invulnerable and incredibly cocky. Stupid. But every 19 year old is stupid. You don't know squat at 19. The world is new and clean and just waiting for you to discover everything. What could possibly go wrong? Ah, that'll never happen, let's go for it!


I use those feelings to get Jake and Arlo to be stupid and brave. Fearless and instinctive. Awestruck at the new Universe they've been plopped into. It flows really well if I just get out of the way when I'm writing.

Arlo is the easiest to write. I can sum up Arlo in one word. 'Snarky'. I LOVE that word. A bit of know it all. A bit of swagger (for a chameleon ;-) and sauce. Arlo's got your back and he's going to never let you forget it. He's the first one with a plan and the first one with a gnarly, smart ass comeback.

The other characters talk to me in the same way. I set them up, wind them up and stand back to watch the chaos ensue.

How about you?

How do you deal with reticent characters?

I hope you have as much fun with it that I do.

Be Cool.