Once a young marsh hawk apparently considered an open garage part of the skyline and flew inside, perching on the metal rafters controlling the sliding door. Fine. Until it couldn’t escape. The woman, nature lover that she was, told the neighbors she’d free it right away. No problem.
First at the front door, then just inside, then closer to the rear, she offered the bird raw hamburger, cooked hamburger, a chicken leg, canned and dry cat food. No dice.
Still undaunted, she got a broom and gently chased the confused stranger toward the front. Over and over it flew maniacally forward, only to reclaim its original post. She became increasingly afraid—she and the hawk both. It clung, fluttering frantically, piteously opening its golden beak to emit silent cries more taxing than a howl ever could be.
The bird had done her in. Or had it? “Think like a bird,” she chided. “Think like a bird,” she barked and began searching the yard for a something natural enough to represent escape. The woman took her time arranging the branch, altering its position, attaching more sticks, setting it up to imitate exactly what it was supposed to be. And, lo, this time when the broom urged the prisoner forward, the raptor found the tree, hesitated, circling for relentless moments until its back leg briefly touched the tip of the facsimile tree and it zoomed away.
For novelists, it doesn’t matter that this woman sank to the driveway gravel and wept for some time. It matters that she thought like a bird.
Tip: Enter the mind of every living being in your novel, whether child, wizard, cat, or grandpa.
After all, if you want every character to feel real for readers, first every character must feel completely real to you. In a short story titled “The Remobilization of Jacob Horner,” John Barth wrote: “In life there are no essentially major or minor characters. To that extent, all fiction and biography, and most historiography, is a lie. Everyone is necessarily the hero of his own life story.”
Your story or novel should have neither characters too minor for dimension, nor snapshots that reduce some players to heroes, others to reprobates or scoundrels.
How do you think like each of your characters?
~ Explore desire.
Nothing reveals a person (or a bird) as well as a burning obsession to change the
external or internal territory.
Let your subconscious roam free. How are you like a goat? A chancellor? A seer?
~Cheat a bit.
For a while, choose a hat to wear each time you switch to a different head.
Use your own emotions, uncomfortable or embarrassing as that perhaps seems.
“Take Your Characters to Dinner.”
Mentally interact with them outside the format of your story.
You needn’t rescue a hawk, or, before the last page, anyone else. But your readers expect that if you include one in your book, at least epiphany occurs, you penetrated that avian mind.