When it comes to starting something new, I usually have a few false starts and then hit on something. This is normally the thing that has the most mileage; one of the biggest struggles is keeping hold of my initial inspiration and being able to continue, so an idea with lots of momentum is essential.
My characters are usually the first thing that comes into my head, and then the story develops after this. Sometimes it can be the other way round, or these things can come together; I think everyone is different when it comes to the order of idea formation. I’ll begin imagining something to be a certain way, and then the characters will develop more and more complexities as it goes along, and then by the end of the development process I might have something completely different to what I started out with. It is a process of getting to know the characters, I suppose.
Sometimes my inspiration, as negative as it may sound, can come from things I don’t like about the way people have been betrayed in books I have read, for example, if I feel as though someone has been unfairly treated or ridiculed by the author, I will take inspiration from it and try to portray the character ‘type’ or situation in a new light. This is true of my novella ‘To My Last Friend’. Obviously all the plot and the characters are entirely my own, but it is manifesting your feelings about something into your own work, which includes injecting it into the story and the characters. I have read a fair few accounts in books regarding the themes explored in ‘To My Last Friend’ where the characters have been very brutally spoken of and treated. I don’t think it is fair to say that these people are ‘disgusting’ or ‘corrupted’ or ‘evil’, or this eventuality isn't possible, particularly after all the research, both primary and secondary, that I have done.
Creating my characters is a good balance between drawing from my own experience of life, but also from exploring a little bit outside of that too. Research can be a costly thing; it can also be free, but you have to be realistic and reasonable about your ideas.
Sometimes I actually think authors should delve more into their own personal experience. Writing something is like bringing something new to the table. Reading about the same sorts of people and professions does get tiring sometimes, as negative as that might also sound. I hate to sound negative. I’m sure there are some really good blog posts about character diversity out there…
Like any business idea, it is easy to be inspired by where others may have failed; characters can be a tool to raise awareness about certain scenarios, or maybe a disability or obscure illness that gets little media attention, but you think should have more coverage than it does.
A balanced character is really, really important too; I could write a book about the ‘Mary Sue/ Gary/ Marty Stu’ character, although admittedly there are some circumstances where this character type is relevant. But in my particular line of work (general fiction/drama) I like to avoid this. I don’t like to allow stereotypes in my own work either, and also every character must include both negative and positive traits, must do things right and also make mistakes. I like to leave it up to the reader to decide who they identify with. There is no bad side; this is no good side.
I would like to hear other author comments on what inspires them when generating their own characters, and to what degree they draw on their own personal life experience.
Thanks for reading by blog.