Sunday, February 21, 2010

Going out of my head

For this week's blog chain topic -- "How do you get inside your character's world?" -- I wanted to share the sordid tale behind my current WIP.

Unfortunately, I can't.

Not here.

While it would make an entertaining blog post, I'll only share that story over drinks at a writers conference (or something). Let's just say it's loosely based on real people I've never met, mixed up with a few people with whom I was upset and set in flinthills of Kansas, where it didn't occur.

Clear as mud? Good.

Instead, I'll tell you about the huge scrapbook I compiled while writing my first manuscript.
That sucker is chock full of articles from magazines -- Rolling Stone, Cosmo, Life -- that were published in 1980, the year the story begins.
(Do you know how hard it is to find 30-year-old magazines?)

It has print-outs from articles I found when I borrowed microfilm reels of the April and August 1980 editions of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It has full copies of The Riverfront Times and Il Pensiero, a regional newspaper and a neighborhood newspaper from St. Louis.

It has copies of responses of those who answered when I asked people in an online forum to describe life on the Hill.

It has the e-mail exchange between me and up-and-coming novelist, Lynn Rush, (How does that title feel, Lynn?) who worked as a counselor at an in-patient drug rehab facility. It also has the e-mail my sister-in-law sent when I asked her to describe the Coachella Valley in California, where my fictional recovery center is located.

Transcripts from interviews with a cop and a doctor and a lawyer and a former coke addict.(Not the same person.)

Sketches of my characters.

Lyrics to their songs.

Oh, and a map that a Greeley County soybean farmer drew for my husband and I when we went searching for the remains of my MC's "hometown" -- Brayton. (I didn't want to use an existing town, so I pulled a discontinued town from the Nebraska history books.)

The research was fun, and I had some memorable moments gathering the info (oh, yeah, I forgot pictures from my trip to St. Louis). But it merely framed the bigger picture for characters about whom I'd spent time daydreaming and freewriting in first-person, which I believe is the best way to get into a character's head.

16 comments:

Aubrie said...

Wow, I want a scrapbook for my writing, too! What a great idea. I don't think I'd put my rejections in it, though!

Christine Fonseca said...

HA! I love that scrapbook!!! Mine tend to be more in my head...Hmm, what to post tomorrow...

Cole Gibsen said...

A scrap book is such a great idea! I'm so doing that with my next book:)

KM Wilsher said...

I have a file of scraps called "snippets" for my WIP, but I have to say, the scrapbook is sooo cool :0)

lbdiamond said...

Oh, this is fantastic! LOVE the scrapbook! (Mine is online in my bookmarks folder, LOL!)

You have a lovely blog. :)

Crimey said...

The scrapbook idea for getting inside a character's head is an awesome idea. I didn't do anything so elaborate with my MC. I wrote an bio of her life and her childhood.

lynnrush said...

OH yeah...a scrapbook...that'd be a great idea. I am glad to be a part of that scrapbook. It's a fantastic story and I'll be reading it in print some day, I just know it.

PS Oh, wow, that title....up and coming....still feels a bit weird, that's for sure!!

Happy Monday

Journaling Woman said...

Wow that was fun looking in your book at your ideas and collection of wonderfulness. Is that me on the front of the Cosmo? I am so embarrassed. :) Kidding!

Elana Johnson said...

Holy crap, Kat! I'm totally cowed by that scrapbook. And I have hives already just thinking about the research! You are my hero for the day. Heck, the month!

Eric said...

That scrapbook is so awesome. I can't imagine being able to do that much research, but it sounds like it was so much fun. So maybe I will do something like that anyway :) Nice post, Kat.

Sandra said...

Very impressive! I don't mind doing the research, but organizing it is a different story.

B.J. Anderson said...

Your process is soooo similar to mine. I love it! The scrapbook is awesome. Great post.

Rosslyn Elliott said...

I love that scrapbook. I hadn't thought of using one...that's a great idea.

Shaun Hutchinson said...

Wow! That is an awesome scrap book! And your drawings are wonderful. I didn't know you were also an artist.

Kat Harris said...

Shaun -- *sigh* I'm not the artist behind the sketch.

A friend of mine -- Wes Wingett -- drew that sketch and the picture of Heather on the right side of my blog page. His artistic ability is absolutely incredible. He taught me how to do faces, but I'd never be able to do bodies or background like he does.

Maybe sometime in the future I'll post the sketches he did for me and some of the ones I did.

Sarah Bromley said...

Now that is getting fully immersed in your character's world. Awesomeness! I'm just sorta speechless...