Long before I started writing books. I was the type of person who liked to observe others (ever have someone turn and ask nastily in middle school if you have a starting problem?? that happened to me a LOT). I liked to catalog their features and movements, even to make guesses about their personalities. An offshoot of this during my days in the rave scene was when I enjoyed trying to determine what the DJ might be like in bed based on their track selections. *blush* Not that I got to find out…
So in one of my former lives I worked with a lot of guys who carried guns. There were some big, alpha, burly…yummy guys who wore suit jackets in all kinds of weather – probably to cover their shoulder holsters. And it lead me to wonder: they can’t all be the hard-asses they seem to be right, I’m betting they have their vulnerabilities, and their creamy, squishy centers just like the rest of us.
I actually named the hero of King of Darkness, Thad, after a former client. He had the whole alpha male thing down, but there was a very heavy dose of the whole boyish and handsome thing going on. He was not, to me, your standard caveman stereotype by a long shot. He was flirtatious, intelligent, charming. And I knew that he knew his way around a semi-automatic handgun. Probably lots of kinds of guns. It was hot.
So the point in all of this, is that whole observing/staring (all right, sometimes also eavesdropping – we can’t help ourselves when you talk that loud) is kind of like field research for us writers. Looking at a person and trying to determine what they are like on the inside is often how we flesh out our characters. When writing a character’s point of view, really getting into their heads is important. Even more important, is getting there realistically. Your average male character isn’t going to know the difference between Manolo’s and Louboutin’s, for example. If he does know these things, WHY does he know them?
For me it is a constantly evolving skill, the ability to show all facets of a character so that they are believable, and understandable. So you can say “Ah, he’s not just a jerk, he’s in pain because his wife left him to follow a hunky cowboy in the bull-riding circuit!”
The goal, ultimately, is to understand your characters so well that the reader can get as intimate and cozy with them as the writer. I LOVE when I am reading a novel and my heart breaks right along with the hero when he finds out that his best friend is dying.
The ability to write deep point of view like this is something I don’t think you can spend too much time honing. I’ve actually taken two workshops on deep POV, one by Carrie Lofty and I’m in the midst of one now by Jill Elizabeth Nelson. When I finished Carrie’s online workshop I sat down and overhauled my WIP in a MAJOR way, and I couldn’t believe the things she mentioned that I could do better. This was with a manuscript that I had already polished quite a bit and thought was pretty darn close to finished. I could have paid ten times what the course cost (thank God I didn’t have to), her little tips improved my writing that much. Carrie is also just flat-out awesome, smart, and super nice. She has a list of the online workshops she teaches, including the POV one, on her web site here.
Already I can see that Jill’s workshop will be just as helpful and effective, because there are SO many balls to juggle in your head with deep POV and Jill covers the material in a totally different way. We’re only a week in but already I am learning more new things. Jill doesn’t seem to have an online class listing on her web site but you can contact her to find out more.
To sum up all this rambling, I stare because for me it is a creativity exercise. I can take what I observe and use it later to help describe actions and motions that convey feeling even more effectively. And, because I just like to observe for the sake of my own curiosity. Sometimes I just zone out. And because, yes, I do have a staring problem. Sorry guys.