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.
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.