It’s For Research. I Swear!
Guilty pleasures. Do you pick your nose when no one’s looking? Pull out cash just so you can buy a lottery ticket? Eat chocolate while cooking dinner because no one will see because, heaven forbid, someone enters the kitchen to help you? We all have those little things that might be slightly embarrassing, but we do them anyway.
For me, it’s watching Dr. Phil. Now that you’re judging me, let me paint the full picture. I don’t watch this particular program JUST to fulfill my nosy-neighbor-quota. I like seeing out of control children which makes me feel better about my own demon spawn. I like listening to emotionally abusive husbands to remember how lucky I am with mine.
The number one reason Dr. Phil is on my DVR? Research.
I’m not joking. Research. Where else can I see people from all walks of life with such varying personalities? I have to develop dimensional characters with the fiction I write. Many authors base these make believe people on someone they know (or think they know). I’ve definitely done that. Ella from THE INNKEEPER’S DAUGHTER is based on my daughter. Jimmie from THE CASE OF THE FALLEN DRAGON is based on my son. Unfortunately, I love to create spectacular characters with extraordinary gifts and flaws. I need more extreme personality traits. That’s what Dr. Phil guests give me.
In reality, they might be like my neighbors or a fellow volunteer, but I see those people at their best, not their worst. On television, asking Dr. Phil for forgiveness or desperately searching for help, the guests are at their worst. They’re scared or paranoid or panicked. They’re trying to act cool but burning up inside. It’s the side effect of having your motives torn into tiny pieces that don’t seem to add to the whole you thought you built. It’s the terror of admitting to the problem you know you have, but can’t quite face. It’s the relief of someone finally being on your side. I absorb it all.
And take notes. I mean, it doesn’t count as research unless you take notes, right?
What resources do you use when crafting new characters?