This may be really odd, but to make my characters seem more real for me, I try to connect in tangible ways with my characters and their lives. The reader of a finished novel gets to submerse themselves in a world someone else already created, but when writing that world, even if basing it in the real world as we know it, it can be tricky to feel that the characters are real when they’re still being fleshed out.
Some characters have pieces of jewelry that are mentioned. Rather than fabricating something entirely out of my head, I searched for vintage pieces. Then I buy them. They become the pieces in the books. They are my way of connecting with characters who are still being created and who are evolving constantly. These two pieces of jewelry both have a place.
At one point, a gown is described in detail, a silk charmeuse gown with gold chain and genuine sapphire briolettes. This gown does not exist yet. However by next February it will.
A single setting in the second “act” is also described in detail. The location, while not mentioned by name, is a real location in the town of Ojai. If you can figure it out, you can go to the website and take an interactive tour.
The beaches are real, as well as the activities on them. The restaurants are real. If at any time specific details are given, it’s a real location.
If the details are sparse, there’s a chance it’s not real. Robert’s home, for instance, is described only in the most abstract of details, as is Tristan’s home. These are not based on real locations, though they are set i general areas that I use for figuring out distances to locations that are real. However some settings without much detail are real. Just don’t count on it unless there’s a lot of detail.
If I wanted to and had the time and money right now, I could go down and watch the trapeze classes at the Santa Monica pier. I could go to the restaurant The Palms in Carpinteria. I could go be a part of their world, and I can hold the jewelry.
Though my husband does not yet know it, he will own the pocket watch Tristan carries, though the time period is wrong. I can not afford one from the correct era that is in working condition. In fact, this one, which is 132 years old, has been priced remarkably low, and I’m hoping the seller doesn’t realize its full value before our meeting on Friday. Tack on another 70 years and try to find one that works
For actors, using various methods to channel their characters is common. Nicholas Cage had two teeth pulled without anesthesia so he could compare the pain of that to something his character in Birdy (1984) went through. I’d rather buy antique jewelry than to go through something like that. Sorry, but I’m dedicated to nothing enough to go through that.
I’ll have the ring and pendant by the end of this week, and the pocket watch hopefully Friday. Until then, I’ll look at photos of the areas my characters are in to feel their situations.