July 30th, 2010

Baby and me

30 days on writing: Entry #9: Schenectady: The act of creation

More memeage: In this edition, Young Geoffrey discusses the act(s) of creation.

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9. How do you get ideas for your characters? Describe the process of creating them.

Character creation usually comes in two forms for me, and is greatly dependent on the where the story they're in will be coming from. In other words, my ideas for stories generally come in one of two flavours: situations or characters.

Situations are more common and, in that case, they often come with characters attached, particularly if I'm inspired by either a real-world (read: authobiographical) situation or a wish-fulfillment situation (think: smut).

Basically, characters and plots are, for me, most often developed intuitively. A situation occurs to me and I begin to think about what sort of person — someone I know, someone I've heard of, someone entirely made-up? — might be involved in it.

Or, and maybe more interestingly, I will deliberately set out to write a certain kind of piece and then struggle to find a suitable character for it.

Most recently, with The Jewel of Eternity, I was inspired by my then 15-or-so year-old neice's enthusiasm for the revival of Doctor Who. Simply put, I wanted to write and adventure story along similar lines, something that would please my neice.

Said something, I determined, would be even better with a female protagonist, and so I began to write, with only the vaguest idea of who that heroine might actually be.

If I remember rightly, she was first physically-based on a girl on whom I had had a mad, unrequited crush while I was in high school. But the character never seemed right, she never came to life; she was only a cypher with a physical description, being put through the paces of a generic fantasy novel.

In short, the lack of a fully-realized character meant the novel was going to suck.

I don't remember when I realized that my heroine's father was a Nigerian immigrant, and that she was a dark-skinned half-black girl, but when I did everything else fell into place (well, much else; if everything else had fallen into place, I rather imagine the second draft wouldn't be moldering away in a drawer somewhere. I need to pull it out and finish the god damned thing — which is the sort of feeling I was hoping this exercise would give me). I realized her mother had died very young, that she had been raised by a loving but stern father and had fought hard for her indendence from him. She was a loner and a bit of a nerd, but capable of socializing and even becoming good at the latter when the novel opened.

She became a person in my writer's eye and that made a great deal of difference not just to her but to the plot, somehow.

Which, I realize, is mostly a very long-winded way of answering Question 9 by saying "I don't know, most of the process of creation is sub-conscious."

But that seems to be what happens in my case.

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