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Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Little Too Into My Characters?

One thing I realized just recently is that when I get into a story, I get into things that are important to the characters in some way. This byproduct interests me and it makes me wonder how this happens. And it makes me wonder if any other writers have the same thing happen to them.

While I was writing The Power of Two I found myself fascinated by Vietnamese culture (Cai is 1/4 Vietnamese) and also interested in the Maldives which is the future site of the Raft Cities in the world of 2176. I downloaded all kinds of computer wallpaper featuring these islands, I actually pay attention to the news whenever the Maldives are mentioned, and I was worrying about them when the tidal wave hit in the Indian Ocean in 2006 (I think).

With Through a Crimson Veil I acquired an interest in Japan. (Mika was half Japanese.) I'd browse sites with Japanese imports and became curious about their tea ceremony--never mind that Mika never drank tea in the book.

It's been a little less intense with my Light Warrior series, but I still developed an interest in Scottish Gaelic. I actually considered learning the language, but that urge went away when I remembered how difficult it was to learn German.

And it's happening again. The hero and heroine in the proposal I'm working on are of Polynesian descent and I'm finding myself hugely drawn to all things Polynesian right now. My collection of Polynesian music is growing rapidly as I search out and buy more and more albums (I really didn't expect the wide variety I found, but it's way cool!), I'm buying videos and DVDs of dance and history, and I've been tempted to buy a skirt like the dancers wear even though I'd probably just have it hanging in a closet after dropping a few hundred dollars on one.

This isn't all. My hero is into rugby, specifically the New Zealand All Blacks team and now I'm following the team on Twitter! I know nothing about rugby or its players and I doubt I'll need to know much for the book, but I'm curious now and wanting to learn. I even checked out T-shirts.

It was when I started looking at Polynesian drums with the idea of getting one that it finally dawned on me what was going on and that this had happened before on other books. What is this obsession with all the things that are pieces of who my characters are? It seems to spring up full-blown and intense out of nowhere, although I suppose it must be building in my subconscious for a while before I become aware of it.

In a way, this is pretty cool because it means I'm deeply into my characters. In another way, it's a little disconcerting to find myself fascinated by things I never paid much attention to before. I actually checked flights to Hawaii yesterday before I remembered I don't have any vacation time left and the trip was strictly to go to the Polynesian Cultural Center and find someone to pin down and quiz. :-)

You're thinking well, it's research, right? Not that much. My h/h were born and raised in California, and while their heritage does play a role in their world view, I certainly don't need to know how "grass" skirts are made. (You take a straight branch of a wild hibiscus tree, scrape off the outer bark and let it soak in water for about a month. The innermost bark is the lightest in color and that's what's used for the skirts. It can take 300-500 hibiscus strips to make one skirt and they weigh 7-8 pounds. The heavier the skirt, the better they sway when a dancer moves her hips.) See what I mean? Have I scared anyone yet?