Saturday, June 21, 2014

How to Become Your Own Character



by Nancy Means Wright


Have you ever been in a play and tried to become the person you’ve been cast to portray?  If so, you’re probably familiar with the Stanislavski method: how to make your character believable through a recall of your own anger, envy or grief. And how to transfer that emotion, through words and action, through your onstage persona. 


I recall the struggle I was having to play Mrs. Hardcastle in Goldsmith’s “She Stoops to conquer.” I couldn’t get into the head of that foolish female until one evening my adolescent son drove my car into a snowbank, which made me late for a rehearsal, and his smirks and nonchalance turned me into that irritable, jaded mother.


The Stanislavski method works for fiction as well. As I write, I try to visualize each scene as though it’s onstage. I see my protagonist laugh, weep, shriek and strike out. I try to get into the heads of both villain and sleuth, for as Umberto Eco wrote regarding his classical mystery, The Name of the Rose, One must learn “to think and reconstruct in one’s own setup and act the scene aloud , switching characters off and on with hat, cane, whip or sword."And the technique of becoming one’s character works not only for the author, Eco allows, but should be “an experience for the transformation of the reader."

In my mysteries to date, I’ve morphed into a dairy farmer (I even learned to milk and birth a cow), and an adolescent sleuth (I had four offspring and seven grandchildren on whom to eavesdrop).  I’ve attempted to become both male and female secondary characters, and the real-life, conflicted Mary Woolstonecraft. The later has become my greatest challenge, for she lived in the 18th century and I have only my imagination as a time machine.
But in order to enter into the mindset of a character, one must also be familiar with the language and events of that person’s times. To be comfortable in Mary’s head, I read six biographies, her own writings; and most comfortable of all, her collected letters. As I read I could hear her voice sigh or sparkle in my inner ear. Novels by other period writers , along with long slow walks in Mary’s footsteps in Ireland, England, Paris, have all offered entry into her world.

Of course, 18th century buildings have been razed, ancient cobbles torn up, and even letters have telling omissions and unanswered questions. It’s here then that our writerly imagination comes into play, filling in the blanks, adding fiction into fact. In venting or reinventing a character: hearing, visualizing, dreaming him or her (I guarantee you will)—and finally becoming that sleuth—or that villain. 

As Shakespeare’s imprisoned Richard III exclaims, attempting (like the  writer) to create a link between his solitary self and the “populous” world: “Thus play I, in one person, many people.”

(Excerpted from The Mystery Writers)


You can visit Nancy Means Wright at her web and blog site: http://tinyurl.com/6voogsb. She’s also on Facebook.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Deadline Istanbul


Peggy Hanson is an author who shares her love of international travel with her readers. The Peace Corps, Voice of America and teaching English have all played major roles in her life. Growing up in a series of small towns in Colorado, the daughter of a mountain-climbing Congregational minister and teacher, helped to mold her affinity for nomadism. 

She's lived for extended periods in Turkey, Yemen, India and Indonesia. Her first two books are mysteries in the Elizabeth Darcy series: DEADLINE ISTANBUL and DEADLINE YEMEN. She's currently working on the third in the series, DEADLINE INDONESIA, and is also compiling and editing her great aunt Mary's diaries, letters and pictures from 1888-1920 when she was a missionary, teacher and principal in the Balkans. The working title of the diaries is MISS MATTHEWS OF MACEDONIA and tells the of early feminism and a woman's bravery in the face of war.
Peggy has contributed travel articles to magazines in India and recently bean travel blogging for journeywoman.com and travelgogirl.com. Her most recent blog is entitled THE TURKISH DELIGHTS: Women to Travel With, Women to Love.

When time permits, Peggy leads groups of friends to Turkey. And she travels with her economist husband as well as with a group of close friends who call themselves "The Delights." Read the blog on travelgogirl.com to learn more about the group of amazing women!
Peggy lives near Washington D.C. with her husband and two energetic kittens. peggyhansonauthor.com


Peggy, tell us about your latest release, Deadline Istanbul. 

Elizabeth Darcy is in the world's most intriguing city to cover for old friend and fellow correspondent Peter Franklin, found dead in the Bosphorus. She's convinced it wasn't an accident. But uncovering secrets can be a dangerous business. Are spies involved? Criminals? Where does religion become politics, and vice versa? And wthat comfort lasts. ho are those men following her? Danger stalks her through the ancient streets. Elizabeth will be lucky to return safely to Washington. Fortunately, she has her  Jane Austen book and the cat Sultana to hold onto as long as 

Some reviews of the book include: "When journalist Elizabeth Darcy travels to Istanbul to investigate the death of a friend and colleague, she is quickly immersed in a Byzantine world of secrets and deception. Peggy Hanson's evocative description of this city of minarets and sultan's palaces is as vibrant and rich as a multi-colored Turkish carpet." - Ellen Crosby, author of Multiple Exposure 

"Deadline Istanbul introduces a smart, determined new detective, a newspaper reporter with a can-do spirit and a sense of humor. Istanbul itself, ancient and modern, filled with its own mysteries and contradictions, comes to life in Peggy Hanson's admirable novel."