My girlfriend makes the absolute best bacon and eggs. Crusty, amazingly soft Tuscan bread slathered in butter, moist yet crisp, hickory smoked bacon, and slowly scrambled eggs infused with complimentary notes of garlic, pepper, the wonderful creaminess of my dear friend, milk, and extra bits of bacon thrown in for good measure. Top it all off with tea (milk and sugar), and you have the kind of morning that I could happily wake up to for the rest of my life. So, I have to ask – will anyone ever find my writing nearly as satisfying?
I hope not. I know I’d hate to live in a place where people are dining on my book. I would, however, love it if they found my work as richly dynamic and robust as my girlfriend’s cooking. To that end, I focus on characterization as my ingredients, and entertaining, believable, organics characters as my entrée. Every writer has different ways of doing this, and while I’ll never say (on record) that one way is better than the next, I will happily offer my own techniques. They boil down to two things: thematic tagging and overlapping qualities.
I remember when I first started The Dead Don’t Cry. I was overwhelmed with the dilemma of how to keep track of my characters’ personalities. I tried cataloging them, creating profiles, and tagging them with descriptors, but none of these exercises felt natural. When I meet someone, I don’t subconsciously tag them with long, detailed observations of their behavior. On the contrary, I slap them with simple, one word descriptions. Disheveled/brilliant/loud (my best friend). I find these to be much more useful. Functioning as creative springboards, they act more as points of references than something I would otherwise be forced to slog through.
Overlapping qualities function in much the same way. I think about certain people I’ve met and after theme tagging them I check to see if certain qualities tend to correspond with others. Disheveled and brilliant, for instance, are what I like to call ‘buddy qualities,’ traits that tend to go hand in hand. Should you find less clichéd buddies, the opportunities for delicious descriptions are endless.
So there you have it – my personal recipe for some sumptuous and richly imagined prose. What’s yours?