I subscribe to the Tips and Updates from Writer’s Digest email newsletter. You can sign up here if you are interested. Though Writer’s Digest is always trying to sell you something (most particularly their magazine, which is worth the money), the newsletter is full of great ideas. This past week’s tip is to ask some specific questions of your main character as a way to understand him or her. You can read the full article at 9 Questions to Ask Your Main Character.
I have to admit that I never thought to ask my main characters about what they first notice when they go to a party. Hell, I don’t know what I would notice first. I suppose the chip table, followed by the bathroom, and then where my friends have gotten to. Otherwise, I don’t think I would notice much else until I settled in a corner and took a look around. My husband would probably notice everything about the building in a structural (whether the floor is level, are the walls plumb, is the trim furniture or paint grade?) and design (craftsman? art nouveau?) sense.
So, just what would my 15th century, educated Spaniard notice if he walked into a room full of people? As a zoographer that notes the habits and functions of animals, I would imagine he’d notice the festive attendees with a scientific eye. Who is trying to catch the eye of whom? Which nobleman is trying to outwit or out-dress the others and to what end? Whose attention is the hardest to get and why? Those sorts of things. He would be interested in the relationships between the party attendants not because he cares on a personal level, but because it is what he is trained to do.
An illuminating exercise! I’ll have to go answer all the other questions. Happy writing. 🙂