On my way to work this morning I heard Hello by Evanescence. It captured the MC’s mood in The Collector. In fact, the lyrics could have come from Olivia's mouth. As I listened to the song over and again, I had an epiphany. For each book I’ve written, the first song on my playlist is the theme, the mood of the book. It represents my character’s mental location in the beginning and possibly the end of the book. Until I find this song, my characters often appear as vague images in my mind. I know their likes, dislikes, thoughts, and actions. Yet, I can’t truly feel them. I can’t stand in their shoes. The song gives them a voice. It anchors them to me and me to them. From that moment forward, when I hear the song, I will be transported into their world, their mind.
All writers find ways to connect with our characters. I believe the need to connect underlies our desire to visit the location of our stories. Sure there is a need to accurately describe places. But the accuracy we seek stretches beyond descriptions of buildings and streets. We want to connect and understand our characters. After all, you’re spending a lot of time—months, possibly years--with these people. In order to survive the union, you must feel a connection, solidarity. Yes, even with the villain.
Sometimes we connect easily because we use our real life experiences to guide us. Other times we connect because we are in pursuit of answers to questions we grapple with. And still other times we find a connection when we eat the foods our character’s eat or research their interests. Regardless of how it is achieved, the bond must be present. If it is missing, the reader won’t connect with our characters, our world. And at the end of the day, don’t we want our readers to connect with our characters?
So how do you connect with your characters?