Today I’ve been researching – one of my favorite parts of the writing process.
I love spending hours discovering facts about people, places, and lifestyles.
The vast database that is the interweb makes research easier and faster than ever.
But nothing beats discovering unexpected connections.
And that’s what I’m going to talk about today.
Unexpected or overlooked connections that can strengthen your story.
Consider the environment your characters inhabit.
Are there potential dramatic elements you’re not taking advantage of?
Perhaps you have a pale-skinned homebody forced to go camping in the desert. Or maybe your story features a geologist. How does her environment influence her personality or lifestyle?
Your story could take place in a dust-covered wasteland. What would happen if there were a deluge?
Get outside your character’s head long enough to consider the world they live in. A rainy day often alters our mood, and probably does the same for your characters.
Time connections? What does that mean?
Consider someone who grew up during the 1930s and 40s and how much differently they view the world versus someone who grew up in the 1950s and 60s.
Twenty short years can create enormous differences in political, social, and religious perspectives.
Your characters don’t live in a vacuum, and they’ll likely encounter other characters with conflicting or similar viewpoints based solely on their time connection.
Borders exist everywhere – both physical and perceived.
Fences, walls, gates, rivers, and mountains are all examples of physical borders. Characters on one side of the ‘Rookstone Mountains’ will be deeply connected by their shared experience, while possibly being suspicious of or even hostile to characters from the other side of the mountains.
Perceived borders could be political, social, religious, moral, or cultural. Think of the connection you feel between someone who shares your political views versus a co-worker who believes the opposite.
Borders are fantastic opportunities to create dramatic conflict in a story.
Dramatic events can connect or divide characters.
Wars are an obvious choice. There’s always more than two sides involved in a war, and none of them have the same agenda. Depending on which side of the war your character was on, it will effect how he connects (or disconnects) from other characters involved in the war.
09.11.01 – In America, the tragedy of 9-11 connected a nation in the aftermath. For others, it was a banner day in their fight against western imperialism.
The world your characters inhabit should have life-changing events even if they’re completely fictional.
Events can also be relatively small. What about the birth of a child? The loss of a spouse? Your first pet animal? Your first date? Graduating High School or College?
Consider how events in your character’s life connect or dis-connect them from other characters.
For someone who’s never had children, it can be difficult to relate to the struggles of their best friend now raising three boys.
How will that affect their relationship?
Connections give substance and robustness to your characters, thereby drawing the reader deeper into your story.
Your characters will feel more real, with genuine reasons for seeing the world the way they do, and you’ll make the most powerful connection of all.
The connection between your story and your reader.