Writing letters to the main characters yesterday was an interesting experience. I first wrote to a character with a supporting role. Usually I wouldn't do that but I was most familiar with her because she is the main character of my second book Soldiers Don't Cry. (Soldiers is probably my favorite so far in the series but I haven't been able to work much on it beyond first draft because I'm trying to get WGTHH published first.)Elizabeth, that character, helped a little but not as much as I had hoped so I went to Head of Stone and discovered that he had some issues that I didn't know he had and then I went to Martha who was the character I knew least about to begin with and learned quite a bit about how she thinks. I also learned more about her history, like how she and Elizabeth became friends.(Martha plays a small role in Soldiers.)
I know it sounds weird talking about characters that I make up myself like people that I am getting to know but I think, it's a lot like an actor getting to know a character. The only difference is that the character is a product of my own mind, rather than a product of someone else's mind. I guess another difference is that I'm not just getting to know one character but a whole repertoire of characters and the more intimately I know them and can make them each unique, the better my story and actually the easier it is to write the story. I'll know how each person in a scene will react to a given problem in the plot. Each of my characters has his or her own filters which they process an event. Elizabeth will jump right in and make it happen. Phillip is usually more calculated in his actions. Head of Stone filters his actions from the fact that he's been in the Native American culture most of his life and that he's seeking revenge on his wife's murder. Martha's filters have to do with the fact that her fiance died of smallpox and she couldn't view him after his death so she doesn't have the closure she would have liked. There's more I still have to discover about her filters and why she does things. But you get the idea.
Sometimes when I do a scene, I like to write the scene from the POV of each person in the scene. This helps me learn more about each character and why they react the way they do and it also gives me information about the scene so that when I write the scene from the POV character's point of view, we can see what the characters are thinking simply by their body language. (Like Martha when she's anxious will play with her hair. Phillip will rub his beard when he's pondering a puzzle.) Things like that add character to the story but you've got to know what they are thinking and how they are feeling before you can get their reaction to events in the plot.
I'm going to work on Martha again today. I am realizing that I need to get to know her better before I begin the book on November first. I realize that I need to know more about why she does what she does. It still isn't making sense to me why she leaves her home in Concord, Mass to go with Phillip and Elizabeth when they go to Philadelphia.
I'll ponder this quandary today and work more on Martha's character sketch and see if I can't discover what her reasons might be.