One day not long ago my sister called me in tears of sheer panic. It turned out she was taking a course with .which she was having problems. It was a subject that was difficult for me to help her with from long distance, so I asked her, "Have you utilized your resources?"
This is also true for writers. I think most writers have or will at some time have something or someone they know nothing about, and it can be very difficult to write about that thing or person with some basic knowledge. You run the risk of being unconvincing. For instance, your leading character is a lawyer. That fact may not really have any impact on your story, but lawyers do have a certain way of thinking, a certain way of talking. That needs to come through in order for your character to b convincing. But you are not a lawyer so it is necessary to research him or her.What do you do?
Look around you. Look to see what resources you have available to you. There could be a neighbor or someone in your church who is a lawyer. Or you could go sit in on a trial at your local courthouse. Observe their characteristics, how they talk, even (if possible) what their interests are. There may be certain phrases they use frequently, or a particular motion of their hand they do when they talk. Do they have the habit of looking past you or directly at you when speaking to you? Is their voice strong, firm, confident, or hesitant?
Look at the resources available to you and use them. Build your character from the real thing. If it is something like a special type of car, go to the library or even to the dealership and learn about the good and the bad points of that car. There may be a little quirk about that car that you can use to make the one in your story seem special or (no laughing here) have character/personality. It may have the habit of choking down at the oddest time, causing your character some aggravation or to add some humor at a point in your story that works for you.
You may be amazed at how many resources you have around you that are just waiting for you to take advantage of them.
Faye M. Tollison
Author of: To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books: The Bible Murders
Member of: Sisters in Crime
Writers on the Move