Back to the Windy City (Briefly)

Hello all! Hope everyone is enjoying this lovely, last official day of summer. Tomorrow is the equinox and officially the last day of fall… which is a bittersweet thought for me. On one hand, summer is my favorite season of all… on the other, fall is a darn close second.

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But really, what can beat being able to eat peach and berry cobbler for breakfast, with your book, out in middle of this sunny greenery??

So while a tiny part of me can’t wait for soups and boots and sweaters and leaves and apple picking, the rest of me will soak up the last few rays of the summer sun with a shameless grin. And in keeping with that/in commemoration of my favorite season I am going to sprinkle this post with picture highlights of this summer. Enjoy!

Lake Michigan, the weekend of the air show!
Lake Michigan, the weekend of the air show!

Life: As alluded to last week (okay fine, as I was shouting over social media to anyone listening or not) I had an absolutely fabulous time at my “cabin in the woods.”

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Woods!

Being out west, in the middle of mountains, with clear air, plenty of hikes/outdoors available, and no life demands pressing down on my calendar was nothing short of amazing. I cleared my head, I read, I breathed that beautiful fresh air deeply, and… I wrote. A lot.

With Bambi to keep me company :-)
With Bambi to keep me company 🙂

Being out there was so needed, so inspiring, and so good for my soul. Also, thanks Amanda for hanging out with me/saving me from complete hermitdom!

And for taking me around to everything from hikes to bookstores to amazing ice cream!
And for taking me around to everything from hikes to bookstores to amazing ice cream!

Reading: So I may or may not have stayed up wayyyyy too late one of my last nights in the “cabin” reading Queen of Shadows… Like, definitely not until the sky looked like this:

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….but what a gorgeous dawn!

Oops. Sorry, but not really at all sorry because that book was amazing and had me on a wild and deathgrip-on-book-level-of-suspense-like roller coaster until the very. last. page.

I won’t risk spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read the series (if you like fantasy at all, DO!/where have you been the last few years if you haven’t??) but I’ll just say that once again, Sarah Maas doesn’t disappoint. QoS had me hooked, heart racing, until the end. And mourning the fact that I have to wait another year for the fifth book. Seriously, trying not to think about that part!!

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On another note, a beautiful Chicago day – and a bench fit for reading.
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And a skyline view from the lake!

Writing: Ahhh so much to say, coming off this fabulous week of writing nonstop, but I’ll focus on one main thought for now, namely: getting deeper with main characters. This is something I spent a lot of time doing the past two weeks.

***Non-writers: feel free to skip this part, as it might be boring! Though of course you’re welcome to give it a look :-).

So, as promised last week, here’s a glimpse into how I go to deeper levels with my characters (not new characters – old, familiar ones who I’ve already been working with for a while). Last week in particular I was focusing on my main character, Partho.

Even though I’ve been writing books (three) in large part from his perspective for the last year and a half (and planning his story for longer than that), I realized that in some ways, I know his backstory much less than I do the backstories of other characters who play far smaller roles. I had always assumed I knew his so well, it wasn’t necessary, but I finally decided that this assumption and lack of fleshing out his formative years up until the main story starts was unfair to him, and that my story could only get stronger from my knowing him even better.

So, with this decided, I set out to dive deeper into Partho and his past than I ever have before. How, you may ask, did I go deeper? I’m a big fan of trying lots of methods when in doubt, so I tried a few, namely:

  • I talked to myself! More than usual…. But actually! I literally talked to myself, as I tried out voice memos this past week.
    • Why I tried it: I’m an auditory learner in many ways, but I also think I need a combination of different methods – so talking out loud (for anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour an half) while also scribbling ideas in my notebook sounded like it might help me sort out the knots I’d had trouble working out solely in my head/on paper.
    • Example: One convo with self went something like this – “Okay, so today I want to talk about Partho and the most pivotal moments of his childhood. Different ideas I’m toying with – A) The time his brother comes to work at the forge for a day, and it’s a disaster B) The times that Maignee comes home late and he’s still up listening to stories C) Confrontation with a magistrate at mandated kingdom lessons apprenticeship…” And then I talked out all those options, letting them take me wherever they did (sometimes far off original topic, but I went with it!).
    • Verdict: I loved this method! Definitely going to use it again. And ended up using it for general plot planning as well.
  • Another method I’ve used before and tried again: writing memories/backstory in first person.
    • Why I tried it: like I mentioned, I’ve tried this approach before and it’s worked well for me. Something about heaving to tell a character’s story through their own eyes, even if it’s in a child’s voice, helps me really get into their head.
    • Example: In Partho’s case, I ended up writing a story he is telling to his mother, still as a child, about an encounter he had with one of the magistrates teaching lessons about their kingdom.
    • Verdict: I’m still having trouble getting into first person with Partho for some reason, but that struggling through was helpful. I definitely need to try it again some more.
  • Last thing I tried was poetry!
    • Why I tried it: I love playing around with new mediums! Even if they don’t lead to anything that will see the light of day, new styles can sometimes help bring back my “play” mentality and spark some magic.
    • Example: Seriously, I just composed an impromptu, terrible set of sonnets spoken about Partho.
    • Verdict: I always love this method, and it definitely helped this time too!

Okay, that’s all for now! Hope this was helpful/at all interesting. Writers – how do you get deeper/more in touch with your characters? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Up next week: diving into world building with a vengeance! Be well all,

❤ Maddy

Last one I swear! Buckingham Fountain with the city behind it.
Last one I swear! Buckingham Fountain with the city behind it. Life is excellent. That’s all.

3 thoughts on “Back to the Windy City (Briefly)

  1. I can’t wait for you to come back and write some more! 😊 Usually for my characters I start with a “life event timeline” and then have pretend getting-to-know-you conversations to fill in the gaps, with varying success. I’m so glad I’m not the only one talking to myself!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ooh! I’m not an auditory learner at all, but I want to try talking out loud! I know Akshaya told me she does that, too!! Anyways, these are all great methods! I still need to try writing in first person though (I have trouble writing in first though :/ ) and poetry sounds so cool!! I’m still trying stuff out, but I’ve been clearly listing out wants and needs of my main character, which has totally been helping. I’m also working out a lot of the world building stuff as well, but I guess that’s another story 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ahh both cool sounding methods that I’ll have to try out too, thanks!!! Also we should add this to discuss to thud night :-). And Amanda gahh I can’t wait to be back out there either, home the mountains have been treating you well in the meantime!! And Erin, safe travels home. ❤

    Like

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