"Mummy, where do characters come from?"
In one of the many fascinating conversations I have with my daughter, we were discussing imaginary friends. When I was younger, these mainly consisted of characters from my favourite television shows or books. I have fond memories of running an awe-inspiring cooking class for the seven dwarves from Snow White. Sadly, they never made it big in the restaraunt industry, despite my best efforts. Such a disappointment.
But I digress. The point of the conversation with Miss A was: Do we ever outgrow imaginary friends?
As a writer, my answer was simple - heck no.
After all, what are my story characters if not imaginary friends? They live in my head, we go on adventures together, I know them better than anyone...but now I call them 'characters', instead. This got me thinking; where do characters come from? So, I thought I'd devote this week's blog to going over the 'birds and bees' of how my story characters are born.
For me, the first part of any character's creation is personality. Now, I am one of those people who has an internal narrative. It has recently been brought to my attention that not everyone has this, and it blew my mind. Upon investigation, it seems my own husband falls into the non-voice category. The things you learn after a decade of marriage. For those who are as fascinated by this news as I was, here's a useful link: https://mymodernmet.com/inner-monologue/
What this means for me when creating characters is I hear them speak to me. In my mind. Yes, it's true - the voices are real.
Let's look at a couple of examples. The main character in my Stormbringer series is a girl called Neala. When she's hanging out in my head, she's usually the voice who is a little unsure of herself. She's clever and witty, fiery at times, but she has a tendency to feel like she doesn't belong - that she's an outsider. Torin, on the other hand, is confident and friendly - quicker to smile than to frown, despite his rough upbringing. Then there's the arrogant, self-assured Loran, fizzy pocket-rocket Jaz, painfully shy but brilliantly smart Àine, and so on. This whole gang of unique personalities, all tucked away inside my head.
It gets a little loud sometimes.
But this is where my character creation begins. Once those voices appear, names and faces soon follow. They take on 'physical form' - eye colour, hair colour and style, body type, expressions, etc. One of my favourite activities is Googling celebrities and finding which ones match my characters the most - this not only gives me a great visual reference to place on my ideas board, it helps bring them to life. During the creation of my character, Torin, I discovered the existence of Taron Egerton, and I honestly squealed with joy. He was the literal embodiment of this fictional guy who'd been living in my head for weeks - so much so that I briefly wondered if I was a magical wizard who'd brought my imaginary friend to life. Their names were even eerily similar...
But, no. Turns out Egerton has been around for awhile. No magical powers for me today. Sigh.
...I love you, Torin.
As for names, I am a big lover of meaningful names for characters. I love looking for hidden meanings behind the names of the heroes of stories, to see if there's some kind of link between who they are and what they're called. None of my central characters are randomly named; they have all undergone serious debate and identity crises in picking out their moniker - honestly, I spent less time deciding on names for my children. I know, I know..."A rose by any other name would smell as sweet," and all that jazz. But when it comes to knowing my characters, their names are a key to who they are. And it's just plain fun!
Alright, so that's it - my characters are officially born! Huzzah!
They have personalities, they have names, they have looks - the next part of their growth into true imaginary friends is learning their back story. What has shaped them? What memories do they have, what life experiences, and how has that affected who they are? That, though, is a topic for next week.
Until then, take care!