Have you ever so identified with one of your story characters that you found yourself doing something that particular character would do — more readily than you normally would?
Maybe you did something your character would do (or has done in your story), because you admire your character’s bravery. Maybe this character cares less than you do about what people think.
Maybe you took a risk you wouldn’t ordinarily take — because your character would take that risk without hesitating.
Have any of your story characters been whispering in your ear, urging you to do or say things you haven’t dared do or say before?
If any of the above resonates, did you feel more alive or more like the person you were made to be when you did what a character urged you to do?
Did you ever find yourself grateful to the character — who is, after all, an extension of your own creative energy — for giving you that extra push?
Did you ever wonder if you created that character precisely because you wanted to be braver or more assertive or more outspoken or more something else?
In my case, I was working on book two of my lunch lady cozy mystery series, and I decided my main character would get her hair cut short and add some color streaks to it. The more I thought about the reason why she did this, the more I realized I wanted to do the same thing.
So, I did.
Stepping into character
First, I took my husband’s hair cutter, snapped on the longest hair setting (1″), and ran it all over my head to erase the evidence of the amateur trim I’d given myself a few days before that. The plus side? I won’t need a hairdryer for months.
[As a side note, I always planned for my character to go to an actual salon for both the cut and the color.]
Next, I set up an appointment at a local salon and went in for a partial foil in dark red (a shade that worked well with the dark brown and gray I already have, since it would coexist with both). Now my hair has this multi-color look that I love. Next time, though — when my hair is a bit longer — I might go with a bolder color. Maybe a reddish purple or even a vivid blue.
Research and Relief
On my own lunch lady front, I’ve got some shifts lined up for the first week of school, and it’s in a brand new kitchen. Might give me some ideas for Books Two and Three.
Plus, it’ll get me out of the house, and I’ll get paid to get some exercise and interact with other humans.
My main character, Livian Alder, who has black hair with some grays already showing (she’s 30), will probably get some purple streaks added to her freshly-chopped mane. And she’ll love it.
It probably won’t be as short as mine, because she’s a bit self-conscious about her ears and will probably go for a short bob with at least some wispy strands up front (some of them streaked with purple).
Reactions from the other characters will be mixed — as I expected the case to be for me. So far, though, the feedback has been positive.
Below is a recent picture of me with a paperback copy of the first novel in my series. The webcam didn’t exactly do it justice, but you get the idea (There’s a better image of the cover posted on my Author page).
What really drove me to make the change (however small) was the thought that I wanted my hair to remind me of the creativity and courage I want to display in at least five different ways every day. At least five.
It’s something I see every time I look in the mirror. And, unlike flowers, it doesn’t make my husband sneeze.
It’s not much of a change, I know. But for me, it represents a notable departure from the way I’d seen myself for many years.
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with just letting hair go gray — just as there’s nothing wrong with coloring all of it. This isn’t about what way is best. It’s about the mental blocks that have stood in my way for too long.
I begin each day differently, now. I still have coffee, but I approach the day and its potential (and mine) in a different way — expressing gratitude for at least three things I already have (usually more than three) and enumerating five things I want to do that day to get me closer to my goals.
It doesn’t sound like much, but I usually don’t stop with five. Even if I do, though, that’s five things I’ve done that have gotten me closer to my goals. Five new things to be grateful for — on top of all the good things I already have in my life. And it doesn’t take long to get me started on a list of those. It’s a good thing I’m a fast typist.
Changes (new and coming)
A month ago, I wouldn’t have even considered going to a salon for a color treatment. So, what changed?
For me, it was a combination of joining a new program with Neurogym and working on Book Two of my cozy mystery series. Book Two ventures into new territory, and I’m not just talking about my mc’s new hairdo.
(No, not erotica. No zombies, either.)
What has changed for you since you started creating characters you love?