Most of my characters are pure fiction. I grow them in the small and scary part of my brain, where even I hesitantly open the rusty, squeaky gates to let out the next teeth gnashing, bloody monstrosity.
Sometimes, I get inspiration from the people and events around me, but most of the time, the characters fight to the death in a cage until the most triumphant wins. Or something like that. They probably just all sit around a green room and the person who draws the short straw is next to pop into my mind.
I’m a hybrid pantser and plotter writer. A planter if you will. Most of my character development is done on the page and as I write the character reveals things about themselves. I love it this way because it helps shape the story in ways that I could never had foreseen, I’m just not that creative. I see the value of doing a character profile straight up, having a guide for how the characters should behave, speak and react. But I like to do these at the end after I’ve had intense conversations with them and the story is almost done.This is the way I usually work and I’m always open to new ways to explore creatively. Most of my writing is character driven, which means that I usually come up with the character first and then the story.
I was in Melbourne recently, and my husband and I went out to a cocktail bar. A beautiful place with some amazing drinks. The whole place had a 1920’s art deco thing going on, with beautiful crystal tumblers and bespoke detailing, anyway I digress. There was a bartender mixing drinks, oddly enough, and there was something about him that caught my eye. I had an instant reaction to him. I stood there while he mixed our drinks and I didn’t even realise he had finished until he waved his hand in front of my face. Awkward.
He was good looking, sure, but it was something else. I took our drinks back to the table and I started telling my husband all about this guy. Thankfully my husband isn’t the jealous type, and he looked over and shook his head at his crazy wife, and to save me from further embarrassment, ordered the next round. It also gave me the opportunity to openly stare at this man, while my husband spoke to him.
It wasn’t until the next day and I was in The State Library of Victoria, because I mean, what’s a weekend away without a trip to a library. They happened to have on display a collection of rare and ancient books. Squeeeee! They were in locked cabinets, so you know they were precious. I was pouring over the pages of a biblical text and I got the same feeling as in the bar when I looked at the bartender.
An idea hit me, the text I was reading plus this guy equals a new character and story. It was like fate. I happened to be in Melbourne, I happened to go to that bar when he was working, and happened to go to that library and look through that display.
I sat on the floor to the side of the passage and pulled out my note pad and started writing about this character based on the bartender and it just flowed. My patient husband found me, knees to my chest in an alcove head bent, and my pen scribbling as I impatiently flicked pages. Eventually, he convinced me to move to a desk, because you know, we were in a library and they have those for writing.
It was just a compulsion, I’ve had similar feelings when I’m on a thread of an idea, the excitement to get it out. But this was like… magic. Everything just clicked and I loved the feeling. I was euphoric, like everything was right and how it was supposed to be.
Guys, please share if you have any similar experiences. It doesn’t matter how odd it seems.