I’ve given a lot of thought to what happens to my characters when I’ve finished with them, but less so to where they come from. There is a host of advice available to writers on how to create and develop characters, but I must confess to ignoring it. I’ve only ever written the most rudimentary character profiles. Unless it’s particularly relevant to a story, I couldn’t tell you what my characters like to eat, what type of music they listen to or their favourite colour. I don’t create idendikits of my characters, instead, they seem to emerge almost fully formed.
As I described in my writing process blog hop post, I see characters visually, attached to a particular location and moment in time. Their appearance and many of their characteristics are set, then I add layers, as their back story and their future emerges. But I have wondered, if I don’t exactly create these characters, then where do they come from? There’s a great video of author Elizabeth Gilbert doing the rounds at the moment, in which she talks about the ancient Roman meaning of ‘genius’ as an aspect of the soul or spirit through which our creativity comes. From this perspective, the stories are already there, waiting for us to channel them. So what’s interesting to me is whether these characters already exist in the ether and each one of us is predisposed to find those that are right for us.
Of course, if this is the case, then you might expect the writing process would be easier than it often is. And if they do already exist, what is their purpose? Are there stories each individual is ‘meant’ to tell because they help that individual on their journey or because they are the right person to share them with the world? I do believe that spirits (those Genii again, in Roman terms) are all around us – that each place, each thing, has it’s own spark. So perhaps the characters I tap into are an aspect of those spirits of place. Then again, maybe the whole process is much more mundane and my imagination is just quick to ascribe a type of character to a particular place. Ultimately, it’s not something I really want to know the answer to. Writing is a kind of magic and it makes sense that there’s a little mystery to how that magic happens.
My thoughts about where characters come from were prompted by being tagged by two bloggers to take part in blog hops. Sheri de Grom passed on the baton for the writing process blog hop and Evelyne Holingue for the meet my characters blog hop.
Evelyne Holingue was born in Normandy but has lived in the US for more than twenty years. She writes in both French and English on her blog and I’m often surprised that English isn’t her first language, as her prose has a rich, sensual flow to it that I love. She writes on a wide range of subjects, including writing and life. Her young adult novel ‘Trapped in Paris’ is available from Amazon.
Sheri de Grom is another woman with a rich personal history. She has worked as a military attorney and book buyer for Barnes and Noble, and many of her most touching and powerful posts concern her role as a mental health advocate, as a result of caring for her husband who has been diagnosed as bipolar.
I hope you’ll take a little detour to visit both Sheri and Evelyne. I’ve already written about my writing process in a previous post here, so in this post, I’ll talk about some of my characters.
I’d like to introduce you to a mother and daughter: Alice and Bethan. Both are fictional characters who stepped out of the sea fret when I considered the location and the story I wanted to tell. Their story is set in the present on a small island in the north sea, reached by a causeway from the mainland. The island is dominated by a lighthouse and an inn, which the women run. It’s an enchanted place, where the human inhabitants live alongside ghosts and selkies, a race of beings who live their lives as seals, but, on the night of the winter solstice take human form and dance all night. The island is a real place, pictured above. It has a rich and interesting history, elements of which are incorporated into the story. There is no inn here now, but there was in years gone by. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether the ghosts and the selkies are real or fictional…
Bethan is her island. From the moment she is born, she is part of it, as much at home in the sea as on the land. Alice, on the other hand, seems to hate the island and is cold towards her daughter. But both are harbouring secrets that ultimately tear them apart. When her sister drowns in strange circumstances, Bethan, depressed and suicidal, is sent away by her mother, first to an institution, then to live in the city with her dad, far away from her childhood home. There, she forgets the enchantments of the island. Just before her dad dies, he tells Bethan that he isn’t her real father and that she should go home. Bethan returns, twenty years after she left, to find out who she really is.
The novel is called The skin of a selkie. As for when it will be published, who knows? I want to try the traditional route first and I’m currently at the query stage and waiting for replies from agents.
And now for those I want to introduce you to, who will hopefully take on the baton to continue the meet my character blog hop:
writes about the craft of writing. She is in the process of writing her third novel, while her second is in the query process. She covers a range of subjects about the craft of writing and keeping going through doubt and procrastination.
writes speculative fiction, science fiction and fantasy. On her blog, she also shares her haiku and tanka poetry, photos, thoughts and interviews with other writers. Sarah has recently nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award.
has written and produced the animated musical web series ‘Steve’s Quest’, of which episode 1 has been released. It has won a ‘best short’ award and been selected for showings at a couple of film festivals. He has also recently released an album, ‘Slow Burn’, which is available on iTunes.
is a life enthusiast and indie author who shares inspiring posts on a wide range of subjects as well as introducing us to other life enthusiasts. Her books ‘Beneath the satin gloves’ and ‘Everything’s not bigger’ are available on Amazon. She is currently completing her third novel.
Last but certainly not least, I’d like to introduce you to another kind of selkie, as she recently nominated me for an award. New England Selkie
is an animal health professional and marine mammal volunteer who lives in Maine and loves Scotland. Given the subject of my novel, it was inevitable that I’d be drawn to the Selkie’s blog and I was pleased to find beautiful writing on nature, the sea and many other things.