The line between being a writer and having a personality disorder, for some, is about as thin as sewing thread. I am indeed one of those people. In fact, when I was in middle school, I managed to convince my friends I had Dissociative Identity Disorder (which is not to be confused with schizophrenia), 1) because I thought it would be fun, 2) to see how long they’d humor me, and 3) because I enjoy messin’ with people.
Why, thank you, Dr. Lector.
Apparently, things haven’t changed much, except that I channel my hellbent energy into writing novels. These days, I prefer to think of it as method acting to get into character. It’s challenging to be another person, especially one who lives in an alternate version of the 1800s and cuts people open for a living.
Don’t worry, Henry’s a surgeon, not a serial killer.
I like to joke that you can ask me anything about a character of mine, and I know the answer immediately. I talk about my characters as if they are people I know (technically, they’re all me, so yeah), and they have thoughts and actions outside the pages of their books. They will also text you if I’m bored enough and/or surrounded by a group of people I don’t know.
The gray text on the left is from Anna and the gray text on the right is from Henry. You never know who’s feeling chatty. I think I might actually continue to text the unsuspecting parties in different characters, just for the hell of it. YOU WERE WARNED.
It’s important to get to know your characters because you’re going to be spending a ridiculous amount of time with them. In college, I had a professor teach Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith. She wrote to Smith once about Ivy, her narrator, and Smith replied that Ivy just came to her and started rattling off her story so quickly she almost couldn’t keep up. That’s what it’s like for me. Henry showed up in a restaurant in Manhattan, sat down across from me, and started rattling things off while constructing a fox skeleton.
He’s not the most social of people.
I was writing a scene the other night that involved a seedy, underground surgical cult society where members are required to arrived masked, a sign of their inclusion in the club. Henry was invited, but Anna borrows Henry’s best friend’s mask. Though the book is told from Henry’s POV, I needed to know what Anna would do and how Henry would describe it.
Since this scene is my lovesong to Sleep No More, I donned my mask and a pretended I was looking at myself in a mirror, wondering at the sight of being so altered. I ran my hands down the contours of the mask, moved as though I were in a gown, and tried to feel what Anna felt. She looked horrifying, and she looked beautiful. Henry’s words, not mine.
Sometimes the only way to get through a tough scene or figure out the next plot point is to become your character. Not everyone goes as mad as I do, but not everyone has as much fun as I do. Constants and variables.
In other news, if you missed it last week (because I didn’t blog), I have a new short story up on The Midnight Type, AND I’ll be releasing another short story at the end of the week. It IS a Valentine’s Day story.
It’s not a RomCom.
So what do you guys do to get into character? Do you playact like I do, or do you have another method?