Today I am happy to host a guest blog post by Tyne Griffin. He is a prolific writer, having written 11 books in the series he is currently penning and is here to share his personal research methods for writing layered protagonists. Here’s what he has to say.
If you frequent any sort of place where writers converse, you may happen across questions. Things about poisons, wounds, events, and other things that they are pondering for the sake of realism. Often those things can be answered with a few simple internet searches. But there’s another type of writing research that is a little more in depth than that.
Some writers use the Myers Briggs test types to classify the personalities of their characters, and it works for them. But it never did for me. It never felt like enough, having four letters and a blurb to build a character off of. I wanted to write people vastly different than me who felt realistic and like their experiences were genuine. So today I share with you the method to my madness of writing eleven different first person narrations in a year.
For the sake of simplicity, I picked out four of my narrators to go over.
Narrator 1: He was my first real attempt at first person. I knew that he needed to be shrewd, cunningly deceptive, and in most theaters except romantic, a villainous person. I thought on people like that, and the first thing that came to mind were prolific serial killers. Masters of social engineering, I studied their mannerisms and tactics through numerous documentaries and case studies. I gained an overall greater understanding of that type of person after taking a Psychology class at my college that focused on them. I also looked over Hitler and people of the like to study the political charisma needed to win over the hearts of the masses. But the true challenge of creating his personality was to take that all into account, and make him a loving protagonist.
Narrator 2: For him, I did two very different kinds of research. He hailed from a Mexican gang, so to write that person as realistically as possible, I again turned to documentaries. But I went beyond just that by taking a Criminal Justice class at my college that had a detailed section on the gang type that his was based off of. Then the second half of my research for that narrator took place at a middle school. He eventually became a middle school English teacher so in order to understand the mechanics of that, I shadowed my previous middle school English teacher for months. I observed the way he interacted with his students and the type of respect they had for him, both things that I made very central to the character in my book.
Narrator 3: He is perhaps the furthest from me, personality wise. A high school bully in recovery, he was one that I had to look harder for clues. That type of person, in media, is generally portrayed as dull, blundering, and a mindless bad guy just there to be a brute to our high school hero. But bullies are people too, so I needed to get to the root of someone who thought that way. He is forced to take anger management courses so I decided to start there. I watched free courses online, read what I could find on the topic, and thought on the past bullies in my life. Someone once told me that the only people you don’t like are people you don’t know well enough (in most cases) so I chose that to be the core of this narrator. Everyone is the hero of their own story, everyone has their justifiable reasons behind their actions, even if they’re not the traditional protagonist.
Narrator 4: This narrator is tentatively referred to as the plant-loving sociopath. I had to do the most miscellaneous research for him. Though others perceive him that way, he is not a sociopath. For his narration I had to get into the head of people who sincerely and deeply romantically love more than one person at once. Unfortunately there wasn’t much out there for me to look into regarding the dynamics of that sort of relationship style, three people who sincerely love one another romantically. But I did the best I could with the information I was able to find. Along with his romantic life, I had to research more on gang mechanics for him along with restaurant dynamics, poisons, cocain cooking methods, and money laundering for his work life. That research consisted of asking questions to people I knew who work in the restaurant industry, more documentaries, news stories, and poison databases. Then finally for his school life, I had to do a ton of research into plants. He was the president of the gardening club at their high school, so he would have a vast knowledge on the subject that I did not previously possess. Lucky my significant other is my resident plant freak, so he could answer most of my questions, but I did find myself trying to find the scientific name of the plant sage one late night.
Some writers say that their characters ‘speak’ to them. I see it all the time, but it is beyond me. In order for me to write a person, I have to learn every layer that would come to play in the type of intimate narration style that first person is. Each narrator needs to be unique in word choice, emotional potency, conscience, and combination of love languages. So if I have to go out of my way and look like an oddball checking out four anger management books along with one on paranormal investigation to accomplish that, then so be it. Researching personalities and creating people is one of my favorite parts of writing because I feel like I made a friend in the process. And in the end, narrators are people at their core, and that is their most valuable and endearing trait to be explored.
Tyne enjoys writing LGBTQ+ romance that is both character driven and has an exciting plot line. He’s currently working on a series that explores Magical Realism, unlikely romances, and world domination.
Hailing from beautiful Central Oregon, he was inspired by his lovely town and scenery to set his series there. Though outdoor sports are the pastime of choice in Central Oregon, he spends most of his time indoors. When he’s not writing, he can be found playing his violin, vlogging, or researching the paranormal. Tyne holds an Associations of Oregon Transfer Degree in English and Writing and will be furthering his education in the foreseeable future, but in what is unclear.