I was working on Deadtown #3 recently, exploring a new scene by putting a couple of characters into conversation. I often start scenes this way, because the scene grows clearer to me as I listen to what the characters are saying to each other. Once I’ve got their dialogue down, I go back through and layer in information about the setting, how each character looks and feels as they speak, how Vicky processes the conversation, and so on.
No, I’m not crazy, by the way. I don’t really think that autonomous people are talking to each other in my head. But “letting characters talk” about their situations, when I’m not yet trying to shape the scene, is a good way to find a new scene’s core. (I’m working on a guest post on this topic for another author’s blog. I’ll post more info about that when it goes up.)
Anyway, in this scene I was working on, a character’s seemingly offhand comment suddenly gave me some insight into her psychology. If you’ve read Deadtown, you know that Vicky’s sister Gwen is determined to live the most norm-like life possible. I’ve understood her choices as somewhat shallow. But something Gwen said revealed some deep-seated anxieties and fears that I haven’t explored. And now I find myself eager to listen to what Gwen has to say.
I don’t want to say anything too specific now, because I don’t know yet how much of what I discover about Gwen will end up being relevant to Book 3’s story. But it was interesting and exciting to gain some insight into her and open up a new facet of her personality to explore. When I “eavesdrop” on characters’ conversation, I can find depths to plumb—if I listen carefully.