When writers begin a new story there are so many decisions to be made. Character names, their appearance, temperament, where they live, how much baggage they have, and what they do for a living. It’s this last aspect of developing a character that I find to be the most fun but it can be the most difficult.
Fun because we get to learn all about different occupations. The research sometimes can even be more fun than the writing of the story. I once interviewed a coroner, who was more than willing to share aspects of different cases as well as answer my questions. While he was careful not to divulge confidential information, he was a wealth of knowledge and had a great way of imparting that knowledge that made my fingers itch to hit the keyboard. It can also be difficult because we sometimes want to include everything we’ve learned or found interesting even though it doesn’t necessarily have to do with the story itself and we end up including so much information that our stories become more like lectures than pleasurable escapes.
When I started writing The Muse I knew instantly that the hero, Blaine Hobson, would be a poet. The thing is it’s hard to research how to be a poet compared to researching how to be a police officer. I’ve never been good at writing poetry but admire those who can do it.
In my quest to learn more about poets and poetry, I read about a lot of different poets, their lives and their works. I started with poets I was familiar with – Lord Byron, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Frost, e.e. cummings, Walt Whitman, and Langston Hughes. (Of course, there’s Shakespeare as well, but I stayed away from him.) Then I moved onto poets that were recommended to me by friends or that I found in the library. These included Edgar Lee Masters, Anne Bradstreet, W. B. Yeats, Elizabeth Alexander, Donald Hall, and Billy Collins.
Of all the poems I read, I found a favorite – Brown Penny by William Butler Yeats. Even though there is nothing similar to it written by Blaine in The Muse, I found myself reading this particular poem over and over when I wanted to get into Blaine’s head.
Have you ever been inspired by something you read or learned? Something that you kept going back to even though you couldn’t explain why?