August 11, 2016 § Leave a comment
Day 30 → Best source of inspiration?
A huge source of inspiration for me is bad storytelling. By bad, I mean stories that don’t quite work for me in some way, not ones that are an affront to my taste. A good story may fill me with delight, and full, I won’t feel a need to add to it. A bad story will incite me to figure out what went wrong and how it would be more satisfying to me.
It’s a challenge, and challenges spark an urge to answer them. In life, I’m a fixer, something of an unhelpful trait in interpersonal relationships, but great for creativity.
It’s more than merely changing the ending. I’ve certainly done that to get over an excellent novel: after reading the final page of M. J. Hyland’s How the Light Gets In, I wrote for about an hour to create a hopeful future for the angsty protagonist of whom I had grown protective. I’ll plot out retellings of favorite fairytales in modern settings. I’ll find that a news article starts a story spinning out in my mind. Yet by far, it’s the stories that snag on my interest but don’t fulfill their promise that make my hands itch to write.
Creating a fix usually means taking a story down to its elements, then drawing all sorts of other things in to recombine and build up the elements I liked.
My best example of this is the epic fantasy quest adventure inspired while I was watching the first installment of The Hobbit movie trilogy. About halfway in, I had the realization that there were a lot of dudes in the movie, and wasn’t that kind of dated and odd? Sometimes, fiction from a past generation carries forward elements that seem strange from a modern perspective. A fantasy story with only one female character feels imbalanced.
Many fantasy novels (and tabletop role play games) draw on tropes taken from Tolkien. It started me thinking, what if there was an epic with the same tropes, but the characters were female? Just because? That seed of an idea has been planted into world elements I have been toying with for a while. I filled out the setting with the mythology of The 13th Chime, and placed it in the same geography, though centuries before Ciel and Jewel. It inspired me create backstory for the dragon Haxe from one of my short stories. Thus, I have the project Nine Warriors, in which farm girl Lirin gets pulled into a Canterbury Tales kind of pilgrimage with the mysterious old sorceress, Moss, and her fierce associates, on a journey fraught with peril and dragons.
August 9, 2016 § Leave a comment
Day 29 → How often do you think about writing?
Stories are a constant narration in my mind. Bloggers know this phenomenon, how it can be as if everything becomes a blog post, even while the time is being lived. But, as far as writing, the actual act of writing, I think about it about as often as I think about food. My friends can attest to how "this nom reminds me of another nom." During meals together, we often talk about other food while enjoying the food we have.
Writing is like that. I can be so fulfilled when I am poking away at a story, putting something down outside of my head. As I’ve been writing regularly, the actual work has increased in appeal. Writing time is a priority for me. I’ve needed it to take my mind away from "lifey stuff" and as an emotional balm. It’s escapism with a tangible product, and it engages me more deeply than a good movie can do.
If I could write anywhere, I would have more writing time, but I feel self-conscious when writing in a place with other people around, even other writers. I can only do some kinds of writing in a park or coffee shop. Mostly I need to be somewhere where I don’t feel exposed to being watched. I’m sure I make faces as I write! I know I can make myself cry.
Maybe I should take up wearing an obscuring black veil… (My inner goth teen loves that idea.)
August 8, 2016 § Leave a comment
Day 28 → Have you ever written a character with physical or mental disabilities?
Not as yet. I’ve started to feel out Farha as a low-vision character. That feels to me like an element of her story that I was missing. Farha, a preadolescent girl, is one of my brave heroes who can be mistaken for helpless. Her story is about an important event in that world’s history, and it carries my recurring theme of transformation. Farha’s transformation is about the death of her twin sister, not about growing up or "fixing" her, and all that seems to me like something important to say.
I’m not completely comfortable with taking a character and saying, "poof! now you have this characteristic!" So I might ask, "What if he was born without a right arm and hand?" or "What if she lost her hearing from childhood illness?" If that creates an interesting addition to their story, I’ll test it out.
The degree to which I haven’t written characters with disabilities is proportional to the number of people I know with those traits. I’ve noticed that fact a lot, lately. It makes me feel like I’m missing out on the perspective and experience of people I would find interesting. Unfortunately, I’m not very social to begin with.
August 5, 2016 § Leave a comment
Day 27 → Do appearances play a big role in your stories? How you go about designing your characters.
My players are anything but homogeneous. I would like to think that I have an inclination to diversity, but even if I don’t, as any character is developed, that character will go through the trait checklist.
I, myself, am a mixed-race woman who grew up with media and entertainment that primarily told stories about adult men of northern European ancestry. Because of that, I can’t thoughtlessly default to either females with brown skin nor caucasian males. What I strive to improve is to realize characters with physical "disabilities," widen my depictions of gender, and challenge other defaults.
When I’m designing a new group of characters, I will look at online images of actual people, not artwork, and keep those photo references. When I’m looking through images, I’m looking for something I will recognize when I see the person. Most online photos are of models; it’s challenging to find someone like my character among so many beautiful, young people. I have to gather what I can, as a starting point. (My reference photo for Ciel is still far too good looking. When I come across it, I can’t help snorting. He’s a washed out turnip compared to the sun-kissed, surfer god that is in my reference image.)
In pre-writing, it can help to write out a long, detailed description of physical characteristics. I like to know decide on concrete numbers for height, weight, hat size, shoe size, collar and bra size. Details end up leading to stories about their lives, and that helps me get to know them better.
It’s a rare thing for me to say that I want a character with certain physical characteristics and then create a character around those. I don’t think of people that way, so I don’t think of characters that way.
August 3, 2016 § Leave a comment
Day 26 → Do you draw your characters? Do others draw them?
I don’t have the practice to draw well. I’d like to have the time to draw, but if I doodle, I can’t do anything else with my hands… like write.
Lucky for me, other people do draw, and sometimes need spare cash. A couple of times, I have commissioned art of my original characters. It’s an interesting process, working with an artist, trying to convey the character in my mind so that they can create that character in their art style. I have tried to match the artist’s style to what I pay to have drawn.
The misunderstanding of one artist changed how I view one of my characters, because I think the idea of angel wings colored like a cathedral’s stained glass window is marvelous. Another artist gave my vampire girl such a sassy face and plump lips that his vision refined my image. It’s a different kind of feedback.
My dream is to someday inspire fanart and/or cosplay. That would be… amazing.
August 2, 2016 § Leave a comment
Day 25 → Do any of your characters have pets? Tell us about them.
Riddle is a red point Siamese cat that takes up traveling with the magician Meyer. When he decided that Meyer needed a wife, he caught the faerie Lili while she was dancing in a toadstool ring and brought her back for Meyer. (It was an awkward beginning to Meyer and Lili’s relationship. The ended up happily married, nonetheless.)
Later, in his ninth life, he becomes Genny’s companion. Riddle is not a talking cat. He insists that anyone who listens can understand him; the problem is that most humans don’t know how to listen.
He is fond of fish for dinner, such as a nice whole trout or lightly grilled salmon steak. His favorite activity is bossing his human companion around. His second favorite activity is sleeping, which makes him a very strange cat.
Kitte is a sort-of cat, too, a mechanical sand cat. Kitte is a finely made "engine," adorned with gold filigree, jeweled eyes, and realistic fur. He is a guardian and friend to Farha, a twelve-year-old girl at a hidden research center. He is a talking cat.
Faerie queen Titania keeps a pet human, a Roman soldier that she lured into Faerie many mortal years ago. She keeps him youthful by faerie kisses. He is devoted to Titania.
August 1, 2016 § Leave a comment
Day 24 → How willing are you to kill your characters if the plot so demands it*?
If I come up with a story that requires my character(s) to die, then they’re gonna die. My stories have deaths in them. It’s not always a terrible thing.
Everyone dies. We tend tend to phrase that as, "In the end, everyone dies." The problem with that is that beginnings and endings are where we put them. I don’t believe that death is the end; it’s an end to an individual’s physical life. It’s a word we use to describe the separation of the invisible from physical processes, usually when those processes no longer function to keep a living thing "alive."
Even my "immortal" characters have some kind of dissolution or ending. All characters grow and change, and each change is a kind of death, a transition, or a rebirth — depending on the point of the story.
I take death in fiction very seriously. Writer advice is full of "kill off a character!" instruction with which I disagree. Audiences are pretty jaded; movies, TV, and books are full of deaths without much emotional punch except irritation, or ones so maudlin that they are off-putting. (I’m still mad at Whedon for "I’m a leaf on the wind!" by the way.)
*A writer should not be bullied by her plot. If the plot "demands" a death, then — just like a Mary Sue character means a lack of development — that plot needs development.