The word for today is verisimilitude.
The way I write is similar to the way that Tim Roth learns his joke in Reservoir Dogs. Roth needs something that will convince the gang that he’s kosher… a slice of life that will indicate he knows the ropes, that he’s been around.
At first, when he tells the story, he sounds like your dad ruining his favorite dinner table joke for the hundredth time. “Oh wait… did I tell you the horse had a pig with him?”
But gradually he begins to understand the rhythm of the story, and how it depends on knowing all the little details, even the ones that no one ever sees or hears. He knows what color of trousers he was wearing the day the story took place, he knows that the police dog had a bad leg, he knows that the toilet block smelled of piss and shit. He has the sense of place so firmly in his mind that even he almost believes he’s been there.
Then, and only then can he tell the story.
And that’s how I work. I need to almost remember it as having happened. I need to see, hear, touch, taste and smell it. But more than that, I need to -feel- that it’s real, that somewhere in the Universe, this thing actually happened.
This form of total immersion in the story has its drawbacks. It leads to a certain level of divorce from reality, involving spending very large amounts of time living in your imagination. If you’re not careful, you find yourself talking to your characters in your head, holding conversations with them. Even worse, you may find one of them trying to dictate your actions in your day to day life. That’s an extreme case, straying into Stephen King territory, but I know from experience I’ve been close to that edge myself.
Saying that, it is a necessary part of the process, for me anyway. And I suspect its that way for other writers too.
Anyone else going to admit to being slightly crazy in this way?