Living Vicariously Through Our Characters

Can you tap dance? Play the piano? Ice skate?

At times in my life, I’ve wished I could do all three.

When I was five, I cut the straps off my old Mary Janes and imagined my once-shiny black patent leather “slip-ons” were tap shoes. I spent hours on the back porch doing my best impression of a tap dancer.

When I was six, a grandmotherly friend taught me a simple tune on the piano involving one hand and five keys called “This is Up.” I longed to take lessons, but we lived in the mountains far from civilization and piano teachers. Plus, we didn’t own a piano. Instead, I enjoyed listening to others play.

During my Junior year of high school, Dorothy Hamill made history, winning an Olympic Gold Medal in Innsbruck. Following her performances, I imagined myself an ice skater for a fleeting moment before reality set in. I did, however, get a Dorothy Hamill haircut.

* * *

Did I end up taking tap, piano, or ice skating lessons when I was on my own? No. I accepted the fact that some dreams aren’t meant to be.

But I had another dream. Ever since I was seven, I dreamed of being a writer. Some forty years later, I declared myself one, wrote my first story, and knew there was no turning back. I was hooked.

These days I can do things I never dreamed possible, thanks to writing. While I can’t play the piano, one of my heroines is a concert quality pianist. Another can quote Shakespeare with ease. A third can brand a calf.

* * *

Writing enables me to experience new things and expands my horizons.

Recently, I’ve become a fan of classical music and am particularly fond of pieces which feature the violin. I thought it would be fun to include a violinist in one of my stories, so I did. The heroine in my contracted book plays quite well.

One person who’s read the manuscript was impressed with the musical scenes and assumed I play. Nope. I’ve never even held a violin. However, I did my research and was able to bring those scenes to life.

My research has included watching some gifted violinists. A year ago when I was in the midst of a major rewrite of the story, I attended a concert by world-class violinist Joshua Bell held at my daughter’s university. I admired his artistry and took careful note of his graceful movement as he plays. Last month, the university hosted the legendary Itzhak Perlman, and I was there. Joshua Bell is returning this week, and I’ve got a seat seven rows from the stage. Sometimes research can be mighty enjoyable.

* * *

What things have characters in your stories done that you only dreamed of doing?


About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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15 Responses to Living Vicariously Through Our Characters

  1. Jessica says:

    Oooh, I adore violin! Don’t play but always wished I could. I’ll have to look up that man and listen to him.
    Living vicariously is fun. All the excitement but none of the work. LOL

  2. My characters always have talents I don’t. My latest is an artist. I have trouble with stick figures. One of my other favorite characters has a beautiful singing voice and another is a barrel racer~ I haven’t been on a horse in probably 15 years and I NEVER rode one faster than a trot. 🙂

  3. Tamika Eason says:

    I agree that writing opens the door to a world of possibilities. My MC is a chef. I love food, it resembles art to me but I’ve never had the time or resources to really study it.
    Any day of the week you’ll catch me watching cooking shows:)

  4. Wendy says:

    Love this question! Skydived and moved to a farm in two of my novels.
    ~ Wendy

  5. Eileen says:

    What a great question. I know I’ve made them do much more, but what comes to mind the quickest is that I’ve made them face challenges that I would normally run from. My characters are far more courageous than I!! 🙂

  6. Martina Bedregal Calderón says:

    My characters did all I did…hehe. Surviving wars and earthquakes, playing music, loving, have a glimpse of the Other World, looking into the future….with one exception…some of them became famous, and I didn`t …hahahaha.

  7. territiffany says:

    We are so alike! My dream was to ice skate, tap dance and play the piano too at one time. I actually took piano lessons as an adult but couldn’t learn:( And tried to ice skate but my weak ankles blew that and I had my daughter take tap dancing lessons and she hated it!
    So yes, my characters do things I can’t. Mostly they are braver than I am:)

  8. What a good question! What have my characters done that I could only dream of doing?

    My characters are ordinary people suddenly thrust into tragedy. The horrible circumstances force these everyday characters to act courageously and behave well, while their hearts are gripped with grief and fear. They do not all react the same, but each one grapples as well as possible through his/her own strength and determination. I lived vicariously through them by walking in their shoes, with my heart engaged, my writer’s head thinking their thoughts, and writing their actions in accordance.

    I love the way you gave your characters gifts and abilities that required your research! If I ever write another novel, I will make one or more of my characters excel in something I always wished I could do, play piano, dance, sing. Won’t I have fun finding out how to make them real! Blessings to you, Keli..

  9. Love this post, Keli! Isn’t it neat to see how God can answer our prayers – maybe not in the way we had thought He would, but He answers them nonetheless!! How exciting that your research led you to a new interest – classical music. What an opportunity to see both Joshua Bell and Itzhac Perlman! Hmmmm…you’ve got me thinking much more positively about research! Have a blessed week! Hugs!

  10. This is so cool, Keli. The sky is really the limit when it comes to writing, isn’t it? I don’t write fiction, so I don’t live vicariously through character creation, but I do find writing helps me push boundaries and take risks I wouldn’t ordinarily consider. I like to say with God’s good grace, I wrote myself right into faith…and I sure can’t complain about that bonus!

    BTW, I had the Dorothy cut, too — not very attractive on me, I might add.

  11. Tana Adams says:

    All of my MC’s are relatively lazy which has no reflection on the author whatsoever. 😉 Oh who am I kidding, I aspire to be them. *sigh* Not their problems though. I could do without those for sure.

  12. Hmmm….one MC traveled all over the world for modeling. I’ve never wanted to be a model, but it would be cool to travel all around the world!

  13. Wonderful post! I’ve told my daughter the same thing about writing: it allows us to do and be anything we want, in our imaginations.

    I would like to be a genius composer, like the hero of my second novel. Or to race along a country road exchanging pistol fire with highwaymen.

  14. Great post, Keli — and I had to smile at your mention of the Dorothy Hamill haircut. 🙂 Oh, the memories!! I LOVED her haircut! ~ In one of my manuscripts the main character owns/manages a small gift shop on the Georgia coast. Running a small gift shop has always appealed to me (although I’m sure it would have its share of headaches, too *grin*). ~ I so enjoy your posts (even when I don’t leave a comment!). Blessings, Patti Jo

  15. I did take tap dancing lessons, as well as baton twirling, and oil painting, and even taught myself to figure skate. (I no longer skate but am passionate about watching the various championships.) One of my MCs is an artist, and all my stories include purebred dogs, dog shows and obedience trials, which is another interest of mine. So rather than explore new activities, I seem to take advantage of what I already know. Where I stretch is in developing my characters’ personalities. Although I took Educational Psychology years ago in preparation for teaching, I never did study Psychology in depth, and am quite fascinated by it. I like creating interesting people and seeing how they function in crisis.

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