Do You Get Into Character?

I hear actors brag about other actors who “never get out of character.” They say things like “If we’re on set” or “If we’re in costume, then he is ON.” I find myself doing this a little these days. A few months back I was editing a YA manuscript about a Texas cheerleader transplanted to a tiny island off the east coast. During the months of writing and editing that work, I subscribed to Seventeen Magazine, Teen Vogue and a few others. I already read ridic amounts of YA and watch lots of shows like that, but I noticed myself absorbing details. I dared to leave home in my skinny jeans and Chucks. In gen I felt lighter and more in tune to what I SAW in the world. I worked that piece for so long Ididn’t notice the change until I got settled into my next piece.

I started writing sweet romances set in Ohio earlier this year. They were a smaller, side project and to see the one I wrote while working on the YA, I can see the YA spilling over. My heroine was feisty and trendy and hot. As the YA wrapped up, and I started digging in to the romances exclusively, I pulled from my real life. I AM Ohio. The heroine in the next novella was a whole heck of a lot like me. The “me” when I’m not writing.

Now, I’m bouncing between a YA thriller and Drop Dead Delicious (a sequel to my cupcake killers). I can only imagine where that combo will take me. I’m already on the hunt for great gourmet baking recipes and asking Hubsy to attack me when I’m not expecting it so I can see what my YA MC’s physical response might be. I think it’s a good thing I get my head into the characters so much. For one, it’s super fun to role play *no comments please LOL* and for two, how else can I write them in a believable way? I want to TRY to be in their heads. When I put on an apron and buy gourmet ingredients instead of macaroni and cheese, you know I’m on the right track.

Do you do this? Do your characters influence you? Your music? Speech? Interests?

*Hope I never decide to write about a stripper* YIKES.

11 comments to Do You Get Into Character?

  • I already dress like a character from a fairytale, though I still look normal and not like I’m going to a live roleplay or a fantasy convention.

    When I’m at home and preferably alone I speak out loud the dialog and walk around acting like the character. It helps understand what the character is going through.

    When I’m out the door I’m pretty much my weird self. Though that might be because I’m a fantasy writer. If I walked around with elf ears I’d get more than a few strange looks.

  • Ah, that’s the rub isn’t it? Unless you have a magical conduit connection with the universe and spout whatever the divine tells you, the characters always have a little piece of you in them. Since I’ll never have children, I suppose this is as close as I’ll get to having kids. A good thing to wrestle with this early in the morning, get my brain thinking! Excuse that burning smell, I got up a little late and the brain has already burned the clutch. Thanks for sharing, take care!

  • I write YA and have a teen. Let’s just say I hang on every word and move she and her friends make. Sometimes I want to join in, but have to remind myself that I’m really the “adult.” I definitely see my characters influencing what I listen to when I’m writing/editing their story or how I feel and act. It’s fun.

    We should all be entitled to have a little fun with our characters and role playing. ;-)

  • I can relate, although the immersion is a little different for me. I write scifi/techno/thriller and during both writing and editing it feels like I am watching a movie in my head. I know each of the characters, but they morph a little with each “take”. It is like I am a director and I’m trying to get each character to reach inside and pull out the best representation. That also gives me a lot of context – little environmental things that need to be there to make the story have continuity. When it clicks and I am writing as fast as the scene unfolds it is an amazing rush!


  • I’m a theatre major in college, so I definitely do this! I write fantasy mostly, so it’s usually just certain traits that spill over into my life. If my protagonist is moody, I’ll become just a little more moody. In my newest WIP, I have a character who’s a star lacrosse player. All my siblings play lacrosse, but I never have, so I’m having my sister take me out and show me the ropes. It’s HARD, but it helps me get to know Liz just a little bit better.

    The one major change I’ve seen in my life is my obsession with swords. They’ve always been cool to me, but since I started writing an epic fantasy with multiple swordsmasters, I’ve become more and more obsessed with them, reading everything I can about them and yearning to get my hands on one. I took a stage combat class for my theatre major and the obsession only grew worse. Now I’m starting fencing lessons and saving up for a Scottish Claymore. Now to check if my landlord will allow me to keep it….LOL

    Great post! Thanks, Julie!

  • I’m kind of worried about what will happen to you if you work on a book about serial killers. :P

  • Hi! Great blog entry, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    I have three main characters and they are all very different. To keep them distinct in the readers’ mind (and my own of course), I pretend like I am putting on a different hat when I write about each one. The most important part of this process for me is actually taking off the hat when I’m done with it. I actually visualize this as a sequence of very deliberate steps when I do it. For some reason, the hats are all fezzes.

    So I can’t really get in character and stay there. Of course this makes writing scenes with more than one of these characters a little challenging, but if I didn’t want a challenge, I probably wouldn’t have started a novel in the first place.

  • Interesting thought. I wonder if this is why it’s so hard for me to write more than one chapter in one sitting if consecutive chapters have different character POVs. Perhaps there’s something to that.

  • I am so happy to hear all of your experiences with this! I laughed about the serial killer comment made LOL I am writing about one of those in my Killer Confections Saga and I’m learning to cook while pondering how much damage I can do with a potato in a tailpipe *car tailpipe* Yeesh LOL
    It gets iffy around here some days LOL

  • Lae

    I write about serial killers and crime from the criminal’s POV. I don’t have major probs getting into my characters’ mind. I have lots of experience with people and most of them, if cornered, are truly horrible. So I simply draw from my own experience and the people that I have the fortune/misfortune to meet.
    When I was writing my second project though I did do everything I could to get into the setting because it was so distant from everything I knew. I did watched a lot of vids on youtube to get me in the spirit (violence on dairy farms/castration/milking/general animal violence) and listened to zadeco music and louisiana radio stations. It was fun, but Zadeco music just isn’t for me.

  • I’m not sure about serial killers; I believe I’ll get terrified like heck writing form one’s point of view. Imagination is one powerful thing.

    My main character is a polygamist warrior sorcerer, so yeah – I like being in his head. Can never afford any of that in real life… :)

    I usually write a short ‘diary’ from my characters’ pov’s before putting them into my stories. Can’t picture them well, otherwise.

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