You may remember that I said in a prior post that I spent time walking around with my Molskine book taking notes before I finally sat down to write Clemency. Much of that time was spent responding to the characters as they followed me around and spoke their minds. But you might be interested to know that a significant amount of time was spent NOT writing at all, but rather, LISTENING. In my view, an author is only a small shard of glass in the kaleidoscope of his or her world. That is to say, I constantly keep in mind that I bring a very limited view to the world because, as much as I may try and tell myself otherwise, I myself have a very limited life experience.
I am a pilot, but I have never scaled Mount Everest. I am a SCUBA diver, but I have never cycled the Tour de France. There are many things that I have never done which produce life perspectives from others that they share and that I, as an author, can draw upon to deepen my characters. While I must admit that I had created all the characters before getting to this step, I knew that, written by me they would all SOUND like me. So I set out to listen to other people and draw from their personalities those things which would give each of my characters their own voice. After all, they each had to have their own unique voice to be able to contribute to the story in their own way. Isn’t this actually research? Absolutely! But I wouldn’t call it research of the traditional kind. It would take countless sources and sound bites from people who are perfect strangers. Although I would never directly interact with most of what I was exposed to, it took all those voices to be able to puzzle together that single voice for that unique character that wasn’t me.
In the end, as power as the pen may be, perhaps my ears are my greatest tool for creating the voices of my characters. Oddly, their words come from the mouths of strangers every day.