I can hear you thinking it (yes -- you are loud thinkers), DL's back barely a week and he's already trying to tell us how to write. But that's the thing about writing, it is a very personal process and no one can tell you how to do it. Actually, they can try, but in order for something to work for you -- it has to be internalized and redefined into something you can relate to. That's why it sometimes seems like we are all doing the same thing in much the same way, but reality paints a much different picture.
Today I wanted to describe for you something I do that helps me turn cut-out characters into jump off the page mind-splinters (can't get them out of your head), or livens up a stale plot-line. I call it LEFT FIELD.
What I do is once I've finished defining a character, or a scene, or I'll even do it after I complete the first draft -- I'll sit down in a quiet place with my favorite beverage (usually coffee), and do nothing but think about that certain element, and try to add in totally random thoughts that have absolutely no bearing on anything. I'm talking totally whacko stuff. Where am I pulling these obtuse idea's from? You got it, Left Field. A good portion of the time this turns into an exercise in futility as none of my Left Field idea's spur a creative shift, but the times when it does work are pure gold.
Here's an example of what I'm talking about. The second book I wrote (Mystery/Suspense) has a character in it who originally was a simple taxi-driver, transporting the main characters from point A to point B. I decided I wanted to spice up the presence of some secondary characters, so I brewed me a cup of Folgers and took a seat in a comfortable chair. I thought about Phil (my taxi-driver character) for almost two hours, pulling personality traits out of Left Field to see if any would fit, until and idea popped into my head that at first seemed crazy...but had the uniqueness I was looking for. What if he was a cabbie who was also agoraphobic? You know, people who are afraid to leave their homes. Except that Phil was slowly fighting his way back to normalcy and he was able to get in his car while it was parked in his garage, then drive around town with his taxi serving as his extended home. A taxi-driver who was afraid to get out of his car? Phil went from being a bit player to a significant character overnight and every single person who's read that book (Fallen Knight) have singled out the agoraphobic taxi-driver as one of their favorite characters.
Left Field has served me well in my writing endeavors, both in character development and plot. I'm sure many of you use a technique that's similar, I've just given mine a name. If you've never tried it before, I highly recommend it. Bringing the opposite ends of our imagination together can be a very rewarding experience, if you're open to the results.