A few months ago I wrote about some of my favourite research activities for characters in my books (Networking Among Characters – Part I), and where I collect different details and nuances about human behaviour. Hanging out in restaurants, cafes, malls or especially train stations are my top favourites, but none of this is possible at the moment for as long as movement is restricted around the globe at the moment.
Nevertheless, it is not the time to be idle, even though we are confined to our own four walls. Thanks to the magic of telecommunication, there are ways and means to still keep in touch or get in touch, and it took me quite by surprise to discover how much you can actually pick up through video or teleconferencing. Little quirks that people do when in front of a camera or maybe don’t even realise they are doing, thinking they are completely alone in the room when in reality they are being watched by everyone else on the call. How are they sitting when they call you? Are they stretched out on a sofa with an arm behind their head, or are they propped up comfortably with a cup of coffee / tea? My daughter’s friends each bring their own drink to the video party, and their favourite munchies as well, and it’s funny how distractions or mannerisms manifest in such situations.
With audio I listen to the inflections, the background noises, and try to figure out whether the person is giving me 100% of their attention or multitasking, especially when they don’t turn off the sounds. Sometimes I forget to turn off my own music in the background, and that turns out to be equally distracting to the other person as well.
Most importantly – and interesting – during these confinement days is the networking with other authors. What piques their interest, what in particular about their niche or genre motivates them? Or perhaps it is their own personal backgrounds that are just as intriguing, and I find myself immersing into one of my characters, interviewing them through their eyes. We get so caught up in writing that we easily forget to put everything down and do a bit of reading ourselves!
The more I write, and the longer I do so, I find it increasingly difficult to read a book without judging the writing style. How would I have tackled that particular scene? Would I have used other words? Is the research faulty? is the background or plot credible? (Note, I speak mainly for the crime / suspense / thriller genre, where character, plot and legalities have to be both accurate and viable!). Is there cultural sensitivity woven into the characters? The list is endless and the day, sadly, finite.