I keep reading posts about getting to know your characters. These writing coaches suggest everything from graphing out the protagonist’s feelings to trying out different points of view. All the suggestions are meant to help a writer create characters that readers can connect with on a deep level. The better I know my hero, the better I’ll be able to tell his or her story.
In my current manuscript I’m trying to tell the story of a teenage girl alone in the woods. She’s in a competition with a slew of other teens and one of them voices the opinion that if this main character gets to wear her glasses it might give her an advantage. Well, of course it wouldn’t. Not being able to see as well as anyone else would surely hinder her journey. But, she doesn’t argue that point. She just hands over her glasses and acts like it’s not going to matter.
If you’ve taken a look at my blog photo (the one where my nose is buried in a book) you’ll see that I wear glasses. I’ve been wearing them since the third grade when I cheated on the eye exam (I’ll save that story for another post). Now I’m in such need of corrective lenses that if I didn’t keep my pair on the stack of books by my bed, come morning I’d likely NEED glasses just to FIND my glasses (HA!). To say I’m near-sighted is an understatement.
So, being visually challenged, I was pretty certain I knew exactly what my protagonist would experience in a world without glasses.
On my Mother’s Day hike I got the idea of climbing back down the hill without the assistance of these over the ear and bridge of the nose miracles of sight. This was the chance for me to travel through the woods just as my character does. I’d see the forest, or NOT see it, as she would.
Bringing up the rear of our little family group, I secretly slipped off the glasses and stowed them in my pocket. It was a little scary. I figured I’d trip over hidden roots or not have proper depth perception to avoid rocks, but that wasn’t what happened. Instead I became very in tuned with where my feet were stepping. I wasn’t seeing the forest true, but I was seeing the two foot square area around me in a very intimate sort of way. I noticed the small things more than I would if I were wearing my glasses. More specifically, the leaf shadows danced on the sun drenched ground and it was glorious.
When we reached the bottom of the hill I put back on my glasses before anyone noticed. My family was clueless to my personal adventure and I couldn’t help but smile at the secret. Besides allowing me to see the world from my character’s point of view, the trek gave me a precious glimpse into a certain truth: understanding an idea and living it are not the same things.
I’ll repeat that.
As a writer I owe it to my characters to get down and try on their shoes for a bit…or, in this case, slip off those glasses.
I’d love to hear your thoughts!