Aside from writing (which since it hasn't earned me a single cent is still a hobby not a profession), I have some varied and esoteric hobbies.
I like to draw and inevidably working on a new story means doing some sort of illustrations mostly of characters, sometimes settings. I used to do more maps when I was younger. It is enjoyable and sometimes seems to help me through the brainstorming stage better than sitting at the keyboard staring at a blank screen.
My other hobby is sewing and doll collecting, the 2 are tied together and I'm into an area called BJD, aka highly customizable resin dolls from Asia. I was brousing the internet the other day and spotted a relatively new type of BJD and thought "OMG! It's (insert character's name here)!". So needless to say, in a matter of days I will have a 1/3 scale replica of one of my story characters to work on.
So, discussion point is: do you have ways other than writing to help you "flesh out" your characters? do you paint, draw, sculpt, RP your own WIP? does it help or is it only a distraction from the real business of writing?
I used to go for long drives on the interstate. Somehow having part of my mind occupied with the driving freed up my creative side. With the gas -- I stopped doing that. Bike rides just don't work as well. Walks, so-so.
I have to zone out, get the conscious brain disengaged. That's why some of my best ideas come as I'm falling asleep. So unhandy. I have to wake up to note them or risk losing them after a long nap.
I mindmap. I put the central characteristic in the middle and then use a structured bucket system to fill out the details. I based the mindmap template on the character outline from Mike Munsil's Liberty Bell Character worksheet . That works pretty well and I end up with a structured character outline.
Well, in rapidly descending order, and excluding writing, my hobbies are reading, watching TV (including videos), recording off the TV, listening to music---there's a big drop off in activity right here---coin collecting, stamp collecting, and miscellaneous collecting.
Plus I have a tendency to develop intense interests in certain subjects---it ties into reading---and I spend up to a year learning a great deal about that particular subject before it eases off. But once it eases off, I remember what I learned.
(I have a paying job, but let's face facts: I'm not even interested in it.)
Like arriki, I often think through characters and plots while driving--I travel most weeks on business by car so I get plenty of time. Somehow, not being able to write helps me think things through, although I don't really understand why.
Also, I sometimes go for walks with a camera and, in just looking at life through the lense, I stumble across new ways of thinking about characters and plots.
Should'a added photography to my hobby list. Interest is way down---I never upgraded to digital photography, but am Thinking Real Hard about doing so.
Posts: 8001 | Registered: Aug 2005
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Go for it, Robert. A decent digital camera with a good chunk of memory is like carrying twenty or more rolls of free film--no worries about wasting shots. With some simple software (I use Paintshop Pro) you get a really powerful darkroom as well--one that needs neither messy chemicals nor darkened room, travels with you on a laptop, and gives you almost instant feedback by shortening the time from click to pic; opens creative horizons beyond the pale.
I tend to day dream scenes and interactions. It sounds something like what Arriki does.
What goes down on the page is probably 1/10th of the scene that plays out in my head. I figured that's why I haven't been writing as much lately. Too stressed and tired to day dream. While it's probably hazardous to my health, driving is a great time to do this for me. I tend to have a mini-movie going on in my head as I dodge cars down the interstate. It's a good thing I have cruise control though. Otherwise, the state tropers would stop me for going 30 on the highway.
I usually start with a face in my mind for the person. If I don't have it, the writing tends to be pretty flat too.
I keep a small notebook and pen next to my bed and when I'm awakened by "inspiration" at 3 a.m. I'm able to write it down and go back to sleep without fretting about forgetting it the next day.
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I walk to clear my head and brainstorm. When I pace, I'm thinking about something I should write down (such as character interviews grabbed and drowned into the deeps of my subconscious). However, during long walks, I develop new ideas that are later tested on paper.
I've scoured the internet for pictures closely resembling my internal images of characters. Once, I printed and drew on a picture until I could see a particular character looking back at me. Doing so helped verify how other characters would judge him at first glance.
I'm considering using www.ancestory.com to record the generations of a fictitious family. Right now, I'm using my own family tree and disorganized notes as guides. It's not fun, as I'm tracking twelve generations.
I've drawn maps, though they're sloppy and too few.
Finally, and most commonly, I research everything. Today, I emailed a theoretical question to the legal department of an out-of-state university so I could verify the realism of a single scene. I read books, question subject matter experts, and search the internet. I spent two or three weeks researching and picking my husband's deeply-wrinkled brain to figure out the propulsion for two alien space vehicles, because I knew characters would inquire.
Regarding the helpfulness of non-writing methods of developing characters and settings, many published authors, including OSC, create maps to expand ideas as well as to maintain consistency in references to setting. In addition, some authors using existing, real-world settings travel to those locations to experience what their characters experience.
As for characters' appearances, Jim Butcher recently told fans he sketches most of his characters before writng them into their first scenes.