I have an expression I use for when I’m able to truly visualize my characters and their stories––those times when it feels like I’m not creating so much as witnessing and chronicling their adventures. I call it ‘being in the pool.’
I use this expression because it seems to me that the creative process is a lot like trying to see underwater. From dry land, the depths of the pool look fuzzy and blurred. Clarity only comes when I submerge myself and gaze below the surface.
Of course, even then the story might be hard to see. Imagine a coral reef thirty feet deep, bursting with sea life. Anyone who has ever gone snorkeling or scuba diving knows you can’t see that depth clearly from the surface (I love scuba btw!). On the other hand, everything jumps out at you when you invert and swim down to the reef. Up close, the vibrant colors and glittering splendor draw you in and make you part of their world.
Sometimes I’m literally in a pool or jacuzzi when I write. Other times I’m on the trail with my dog, Patch. Some of my best writing has happened at the dog park, or while driving to my mother’s place in Rancho Mirage. For me, it’s not about being at a keyboard; it’s about occupying the same space as my characters. Once I’m in the pool, I can play with them like Barbie dolls, putting them in different settings and seeing how they react. I also get to see the plot grow, develop, and sometimes even change as a result.
In many ways, the characters in my books are like friends: I have to hang out with them in order to really know what’s going on. Most of the time when I’m not connecting with them, it’s my fault. I’ve been neglecting them and, just like real friends, they resent me for it and don’t want to talk to me.
During those times, I often I think of my dog, Patch. When I’ve been gone all day at work, leaving him home alone, I have no right to expect him to be excited to see me when I finally walk through the door. Of course, he’s usually thrilled I’m home and eager to play, but some times he’s cranky that I was gone for so long (he lets me know this by pointedly ignoring me while he chews a bone).
In those times, I have no right to demand attention. I deserve the cold shoulder treatment. My job is to be patient and give him the affection he deserves until he’s ready to reciprocate. Given time, he always warms up to me. Good characters are the same way: they respond to attention, rewarding you with key insights to their personalities and the stories they have to share the more time you spend with them.
Some of the best personality quarks of my characters were whispered to me in the stillness of the pool: Hayward and Simpkins’s penchant for seventies garb; Willy’s emotional codependency with his ferret, Siphon; the twisted genes that cause Jinx’s abilities to backfire…
Remember that the real goal is to play with your friends, whether they’re furry or fictitious, real or imagined. Give them attention and you’ll be amazed what you discover.
For anyone interested, my book, Bobby Ether and the Academy, is a young adult adventure story that blends fantasy with new-age/spiritual fiction (Think Harry Potter meets the Celestine Prophecy). It’s full of excitement, mystery, and just a hint of magic. More information about the book and about me can be found on my website at: http://www.RScottBoyer.com.