It’s crucial for me to know my character’s wildest fantasies, their hopes and dreams for the future. A refrain from one of my teachers was: You need to know the story the characters are telling themselves, and then beyond that, you have to know the story your characters are telling themselves about the stories they tell themselves. We have all meta-narratives inside us. It’s not a coincidence that we talk about character in terms of depth and mining metaphors. We have our hopes and dreams on the surface. Beneath that we have our fears that those hopes are in reaction to and beneath that, the magical thinking that allows us to go on everyday in the face of those significant fears. It’s an excavation process for me. Once I get down to the bedrock of it, the story is usually done. It surprises me every time it happens.
Claire Vaye Watkins