Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cozying up to My Characters

This weekend, I went to Dallas for the first time in ages. I lived there back in the early 2000s, and lately the place has taken on a new significance for me because one of the characters in my novel lives there.

That just happened. It was one of the many moments in my book where a turn of events surprised even me. I had mapped and plotted out a good bit of the story, but I'd left the details up to the characters to fill in. I was wondering where Noah ended up, and suddenly, while writing, there he was. In the great state of Texas.

It definitely makes it easier to write about a place when you have an intimate level of familiarity with it, and several of the places I've lived or visited frequently have cameos or major roles in my book. In the case of Dallas, I still had to do some googling to find a logical spot for Noah to live and work, and while there this weekend, I was really curious to find out how well I'd done in describing a setting that existed, until then, solely in my head. Turns out, really well. I drove around and found "his" office - there was one there, in the spot I'd described, that fit the way I'd described it. I found the park where he walks his dog. I found the bars and restaurants he hangs out in. I drank a couple of beers for him.

With him.

That's the weird thing about it. Being there, in the setting I've lived in inside my head for so long, really made me feel close to my characters - like they could walk around a corner and bump into me at any given second. It's the second time it's happened to me since this whole crazy Land of Make Believe thing started. Back in the spring I visited the town where I was born and spent the first couple years of my life - which also plays a significant role in the book. I hadn't seen it in years, so the town in my novel is completely fictional. But it was so much fun to drive around and, again, see how well I'd done describing a place that had taken on an entirely new life in my head. And again, I found some uncanny similarities to the settings I'd described.

Like the house pictured above. It couldn't be any more like Amelia's family's house. It is Amelia's family's house. As weird as that sounds. But then, anybody reading this is likely a writer, too, so you might understand this particular brand of weirdness.

Or maybe it's just me.

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