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20 May 2010 6 Comments

Some of you may make a habit of dialoguing with your characters before you begin to write a novel. Others may not have heard of the idea. I have done a form of this for years, but never applied it to characters in my novel until I began reading a few blogs where the actual hero or heroine were interviewed. What I great idea, I thought, so I applied it to two characters I thought I knew from the inside out. Turns out I didn’t know the heroine as well as the hero. After I had a chat with her, I went back and fleshed her out with the ease of writing about someone I had known a lifetime (but then, perhaps she has been a seed inside my soul my entire life, waiting to sprout).

Recently, I had to have a particular medical procedure that made me feel threatened. What could I do to get myself through this without having a meltdown in the middle of it? Well, talking to the heroine in my new WIP did the trick.

Here I was, on a table in a medical center in a foreign country, while my heart and soul were elsewhere. In my mind, I was in a lush green meadow carpeted with a thick layer of bluebells and sitting under a blossoming wild cherry tree. When a gust of wind blew, white blossoms rained around me like scented snow. Sarah (my character) and I leaned our backs against the tree and chatted. She told me what it was like—really like—to be caught in the terrible predicament she was in, and how she was changing as a result. Next thing I knew, the practitioner said in her broken English. “All done.”

I opened my eyes, looked into her smiling face and at the clock over her shoulder. I could not believe the time that had passed or that the procedure had entirely escaped my conscious state! Mind you, I am a certified hypnotherapist and have for years taught meditation, but when I tried to do both of these things with fear running through me like water from a faucet with no shut-off valve, I couldn’t remain focused. But under the cherry tree, blossoms in our hair and sheep in the meadow, I was living in nonlinear time in 1850’s England—Kent to be exact, with the farthest thing from my mind being laid out in a large medical center.

Today, I will rest by the therapy pool after physical therapy and dialogue with my hero—Augustus Malvern, Lord Eastleigh. I want to know—from the deepest part of his heart—what things were like for him during the Crimean War. Perhaps it will help him remember the one thing that keeps him from living life to the fullest.

What about you? Do you dialogue with your characters? Have you had any similar, surprising results? Please leave a comment, I would love to hear from you.

Below is an excerpt from my first conversation with a character, Mary Katherine. It is the first night over dinner with Wolf who sits across from her chatting with the ship’s captain and her parents. I did not stop to think or rationalize. I simply wrote as quickly as she spoke and did no editing other than to hit spell check.

“Tell me about yourself, Mary Katherine. Maybe start with some recollection as a child.”

“I suppose I was always aware that there was something different about my parents. I trusted Old Chinese, my mentor, to raise me, but not my parents (and please don’t call me on his name. It is what he chooses to be called and there is a reason). I prefer his logic and his integrity and morals. In fact, I need and desire his integrity and morals. I relate to him more than to my parents. I remember his hands…so strong and powerful, but so safe when I slipped my hand into his when I was a little girl. In some ways that hand still holds mine.

Mother is terribly emotional and undisciplined. She is impatient and impetuous. Unfortunately, I have inherited that tendency and it is what I use my self-discipline against. Father has more discipline since he studied under Old Chinese, but he lacks the character and integrity that are a vital part of the old man’s teachings.

I knew from a very young age, I don’t know how I knew, but I did, that I was not to speak of what my mentor taught me. I also knew from a very young age that I was being groomed to take over his work. I didn’t know fully what his work was until he chose to reveal it. I never questioned why my mother and father trusted a man alone with me until after you wrote the book. Thank you.

For whatever reason, my thoughts never strayed to men and the emotional/physical nature, even though I was secretly surrounded by them. Wouldn’t mother have had a fit, had she known?

My job, my goal is one of securing the future of the farm. I must somehow convince my father…well, my parents, to let me have the farm and live up there.

However, now there is a fly in the ointment. My parents, despite their wealth, have not been accepted into Boston’s upper crust. Jonathan came forward and asked for my hand. It was promptly accepted by my parents and I cannot easily renounce it without throwing some kind of suspicion on me that I am up to something else. He is everything I despise in my parents’ world. I must have a life that will allow me some freedom. This is a terrible problem, because you see, I am their ticket, their only ticket into society…they have tried all else.

And now there is Wolf. Oh, I saw him years ago when he walked into the hotel all scruffy, and something shot right through me. It wasn’t a sexual thing then…it was, I don’t know…a power in him…perhaps a destiny…an inner knowing…I just knew he would be right for the farm. That feeling I got when I saw him, I carried it right through to now. I wanted a man like that.

And now here he is, on the ship, sitting right across from me and I see him as perfect for what I need a man for, but I also see something else. He does something to me. I want to climb right over the table and lick the side of his face—to taste him. I want to crush my mouth to his and draw from him something, I don’t know what… into my soul.

He is the one. He must be.


  • Eliza Knight said:

    That meadow sounds beautiful Kathleen! I might have to visit there with some of my own characters 🙂

    I hope you are feeling better!


  • Aislinn said:

    I’m going to have to remember this trick next time I’m at the dentist’s. I usually try something like this, but it’s never quite this effective.

    Hope you’re feeling better soon.


  • Tess said:

    Great post, Kathleen! I LOVE WOLF!

  • Kathleen said:

    Thank you! As I said, I usually use meditation/self-hypnosis methods for doctors and dentists, but this was something different. Just the night before I wrote the meadow scene with Sarah sitting under the wild cherry tree (I have researched the heck out of flora and fauna of England – no green thumb here), so it was a delight to end up under the tree with her for a chat!

    Thanks for stopping by.

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