“Your love is like a shadow on me all of the time.” – Bonnie Tyler, Total Eclipse of the Heart
The first part of writing a novel (or short story) is like falling in love. There’s passion. There’s fun. There’s discovery. No, you don’t have to be writing romance, but of course, that works, too!
When an idea strikes me, all I want to do is write. I want to know my characters inside out, right side up, forwards, backwards, and upside down. That’s part of my writing process. I’m impatient to get to the bottom of them and then deeper. It isn’t just like lust, it IS lust!
I like to get into my characters’ heads. Right now, I’m writing some short fiction, and in the story called Lockdown, I’m inside the head of a nineteen-year-old man. Because it’s in first person, I can get very far down inside him, which is why I particularly enjoy writing in that viewpoint. I hear his thoughts, and in a way, it’s deeper than any romantic relationship could be, because, in order to tell his story, I am him.
When I am writing, at least at first, it is sort of like there’s a shadow on me. It’s not at all negative, but it can be distracting if there are other things I need to do.
To build a good relationship takes more than love. Partners need to listen to each other. Since the Writer must tell the story, the Writer must listen. At all times. That doesn’t mean your characters won’t ever listen to you. They can and do.
Here’s an example. In Wounded Bride, there’s a scene where someone is on a plane for the first time, so I needed to describe how that felt to her. I was having trouble, so I asked the lead detective in the book, who’d been on lots of planes, to help me describe it. She did. She helped me to combine my other character’s experience with a clearer description than I was getting just listening to the person actually on the plane.
So ask your characters things. Climb up nice and comfy into their heads and ask them anything. Even the bad guys might help you out. (If you’re in a bad character’s head, make sure you climb back out after!)
It does take time, and patience, just like any relationship, but if you take the time to listen to your characters and ask them questions, you’ll find that they run deep, and you can literally start to love them, romatically or otherwise.