Yes, I said yo. We’re moving on.
So, I’m a bit laid up with a hell of a sinus infection right as I’m trying to finish up edits for Killing Mercutio. It’s a tad unfortunate. I’m so close, but my head feels like it’s being hit by invisible hammers. The idea of thinking… at all, really, has my whole body protesting.
But I’m not going to let that get in the way of writing up a blog for today. Fair warning, though… I have no idea if it’s any good.
I’ve had a few people reading Mercutio as I’ve edited, helping to point out what isn’t reading well to an entirely objective eye. And, fortunately, there haven’t really been many to worry about.
This is because A and I know our characters really, really well. And when you know your characters, what you write tends to be pretty damn clear. Because, get this, your characters are the heart of your story. Plot is important enough, but your characters drive the plot.
I have a hierarchy for my stories. It doesn’t have to be your hierarchy, but it is mine and it works for me.
For me, World comes first. Why? Because everything happens inside that world. The characters are a product of their world and the plot has to work within it, as well, so I have always considered it the most important thing. And the world is, in and of itself, a character for me.
But… a novel like Mercutio doesn’t have a terribly in-depth world. We went with Shakespeare’s Verona and added some history to give it a broader scope, but I certainly didn’t have to put as much effort into the world as I did the characters.
(For the record, characters come second and plot comes third. For me, plot is a product of world and characters. My buddy over at The Scribble Bug can attest to this. She’s called me a Game Master before; put the characters into a world and then throw shit at them to see what happens. And it sometimes drives her nuts, I have no doubt.)
Before we move on: I did mention I have a terrible sinus infection and my brain isn’t quite where it should be, right? Right now, this feels like it makes sense even if it is a bit rambly, but I could probably understand Benjy Compson, so I might not be the best judge. But I think I was talking about characters. In a weirdly roundabout way. So let’s get going…
In a story like Mercutio, characters are of even more importance. We know the play. So our ability to take these characters and these events and make them new and interesting and, hopefully, intriguing, is the heart of our novel. We had to know these characters. They had to be as well-developed and multifaceted as real people so they could drive the plot and make it their own. Mercutio, himself, made some very surprising changes to his own narrative because of it. (Changes that kinda messed up A’s half of the novel… and I’m sorry, A…) But… how does one get to know their characters so well?
Well… the same way you get to know anyone really well. You talk to them. You let them tell you who they are. For A and I, writing together, we found objective physical models and used the way our picks move, speak, sound, etc to add depth to our characters. Mercutio is tall and slender, so he ended up moving in a sort of graceful lurching most of the time; the lope of a man who’s taller than everyone in the room (but for the time… he’s not 6’8 or anything). Tybalt isn’t traditionally good looking, but he is incredibly sexy because he knows exactly how to use his body to best effect. We got that just from their physical bodies.
But, mostly, we talked to them. We figured out who they were and what they wanted. I know their sex lives (seriously… Tybalt really knows how to use his body to best effect) even though there’s no sex in the novel. I know Benvolio is a writer even though it never shows up in the story. (For the record, A knows this stuff, too. I’m not taking credit for something… though I admit I was the one who thought about their sex lives. What? Someone was talking about their characters’ sexual proclivities and it naturally got me thinking about mine! Romeo’s is particularly sweet.)
How does talking to characters in your own head work? For me, I literally talk to them… but then, I’m insane. I also love character studies (vignettes that won’t ever make it into the novel, but teach me loads), character bios (but for purely physical things, never personality because personalities aren’t stagnant), and when I have physical models, watching those models perform in other stories. Even when they’re different characters, there’s something that carries through — something about the sound of their voice or the way their face moves — and I often like to incorporate that into my character, too. (I suppose out of some misguided hope my story will one day make it to the screen…)
I also just spend a lot of time thinking. Eventually, they start talking to me. The problem is, it’s inevitably when I’ve just decided to do something else.
Well, that’s it for me today. I’ll be back on Friday with Boozy Books. I’m feeling sick… know what that means? Austen! I still have… three (?) left, I think. Any requests between Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, and Mansfield Park?