This month’s Round Robin is about how I establish a story, its characters, and setting. How do I immerse my readers in my story? First, I must immerse myself in the location. This means either research or I’m very familiar with the area.
For such stories like The Whispering House, Last Chance, and Mr. Hotness, I spent a lot of time in these locales. Well, not necessarily Las Vegas where Mr. Hotness is set, but I’ve been there enough times to describe it. However, places like Argentina, the interior of China, Tibet, India, and ancient Egypt I have to research. Once I can see it the location in my head, the flora and fauna, the people and their dwellings, that’s when I can begin the process of writing.
Inside a character’s head
With the research somewhat complete, it’s easier for me to get inside the character’s head/body. If I can see through their eyes, experience what they’re experiencing, the writing will flow easily. However, some days, my character plays coy and makes me work harder for the words.
I’m a member of a beta crit reading group. It has improved my writing. One thing that stuck with me from one of our first rounds was an article Steve Bargdill referred me to. This article has changed the way I write my characters, which, in turn, affects the setting. Rather than tell you how the person is feeling, I try to impart it with descriptions of how a person is feeling viscerally. I believe this pulls the reader in more than saying something like, “She was frustrated.” It does make it challenging, and I certainly haven’t perfected this yet, but I feel it puts me deeper into the character’s POV.
Snow Spirits is my current WIP. This is the first work I’ve used this new “technique”.
She nodded and padded over to the pile of backpacks. Only four were there. Hers had to be where she’d left it. She trotted back into the tunnel past where Pema stood at the entrance and stopped when she turned the corner. The two bodies of the men they’d killed lay in the middle. Both stared at the ceiling, unseeing. Blood pooled under them. She shook from head to toe and closed her eyes for a moment to gather herself. With a deep breath, she jumped over the dead men and walked the few steps to her backpack where it leaned against the jagged wall. Drops of blood stained it.
Another shudder rippled through her. Every time she put it on, those stains would be there. She’d have to carry it, always reminded that she’d killed someone. When they reached India, she’d burn it.
Turning her back on the bodies, she shifted and reached for her clothes. A puff of cold air lifted the hair on the nape of her neck, chasing goose bumps across her skin. It crawled as if someone watched her. She glanced around, searching the dark, but nothing stirred. Her heart galloped in her chest, and she caught her breath. Were the soldiers’ spirits lingering?
Unwilling to find out, she threw on her clothes, grabbed her pack, ran past Pema into the cave, and stopped, panting.
Now that you know how I establish a story, character and setting, how do you do it?