Friday, March 12, 2010

The Experience of Writing

As a writer I get to experience the world in a unique way - or I should say in many unique ways. Part of the pleasure for me is the detective work of getting to know my characters 'inside-out' and seeing their worlds through their eyes.

Diana and I travelled to the historic Gold Rush town of Barkerville, BC this week as part of my research for Stained Glass. The question we encountered all the way up the famed Cariboo Wagon Road was: "Barkerville in March? Who goes to Barkerville in the winter time?"

A writer and an artist, that's who!

Wandering around the deserted, snow clogged streets of the town gave me an idea of what the main characters in Stained Glass might have been seeing and feeling during a winter sojourn in their remote community. That sense of 'being there' is essential, and for me making that connection between then and now, me and them, here and there is the groundwork for a successful story. It's also fun, in a quirky sort of way.

Sources and inspirational techniques for me include:
  • Actual trips to settings where a story takes place;
  • Conversations with people who have lived the life you're writing about;
  • Visits to the library and the archives;
  • Meditations on the lives of my main characters;
  • Enactments, where I become the characters I want to write about;
  • Collaborations with people who are in the roles you want to portray.
The secret is: You really have to like engaging in these kinds of activities. It has to be fun. You have to laugh when people ask you questions like, 'Barkerville in March? Are you nuts?' And sort of agree that you are.

1 comment:

  1. Great observations and comments! I particulairly like how characters will often take over the story and even though you, as the writer, are supposed to be in control you find you aren't. A result of, as you list 'Meditations on the lives of my main characters.' I was having some trouble with this in trying to write a sequel to 'Partners' which ends, as it happens, in Barkerville. I believe I've figured out how to take controle again, but Chapter 11 isn't where I thought I'd be in Chapter 1.
    Getting the 'feel' by visiting the local is also great for the story and for many other personel reasons. There are many locals across Canada and the US where this can be done but Barkerville takes second place to none of them.