Character Confessions from the Not So Spotless Mind
My mind is constantly creating stories. Some come from inspirations from life, music, and sometimes even my nightmares. Others seem to pop into my head in random day dreams. They range from the very innocent of creatures or people that any child would love to read or hear about to things with fangs and claws that scrounge around in the shadows. To ask, “Which comes first-the story or the characters?” is a lot like asking, “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” I think for me it just depends on whichever seems to pop in my head.
Six years ago, I was looking through some of my composition books. I can’t really remember what prompted me to do so other than I wanted to be a bit nostalgic. I had found a story I had written for a class project. I thought it was somewhat bland yet there was something about it that birthed a spark of inspiration. It had been quite awhile since I had really sat down and written anything. The last thing I had written was for my best friend who had died tragically in a freak accident many months earlier. I had also lost my grandfather eight months prior to losing her. I had only recently taken up going back to the book stores and library. Getting books for my grandfather who was very fond of Zane Grey, Louis L’Amour, and many of the classics had been fun. I would pick him up some books as well as pick some up for myself. When he died I had all but avoided books like the plague in my grief, yet I found myself almost a year after his passing in book stores and the public library. I’m starting to ramble, sorry for that. I began writing and before I knew it-I had run out of pages to write upon. I went to the store and purchased four composition notebooks, brought them home and began writing. By the time I filled them my story had ended and I had given birth to Guardians of the Night, which would later be re-titled by the vanity press I stupidly signed with, Renegade Night. It was my first vampire novel.
When I wrote my second book, that has been published as an E-book through XoXo Publishing in Toronto, Canada, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to write a shifter book. The inspiration for my characters from Cursed Awakening came from two different television programs. One was about women who had fled a certain religious cult and the other was about the plight of Native American Reservations on a segment of The Oprah Winfrey Show. The story began forming and I found myself really getting into the writing because I got to incorporate my love of Native American history and lore. I also looked at Urban Myths when I was developing some of the creature features for this story.
I believe that characters have to have chemistry. They have to balance each other. We’ve all read books where you have two sappy mains and they fall in love and live happily ever after-oh wait, that’s Disney. For example-Lainey Thomas is pretty average yet she’s no push over and very modern; definitely not your “damsel in distress” kind of gal. I want my heroines to be women that don’t look like Barbie. For my lone hero, of course I wrote him to be sexy but there’s more to him than his looks. Alexi is closed off and is strictly all business with no Margarita hour. However, they draw each other because they’ve both been survivors and both of them whether they realize it or not crave something more than their own existence. Don’t we all crave more than what we are? Isn’t there something you’ve not done yet but keep putting off? Something new you’d like to try? For Lainey she thought it was being a big time editor-for Alexi, anything but being a vampire worked for him. For Ivy and Nyx it was about trust. Man, we’ve all had trust issues over something at some point in our lives. I believe you have to constantly work with your characters no matter what genre or story you’re writing. They have to mesh well even if their hero or the villain. Even the Romero zombies have to fall in line at some point with their human counter parts. If they didn’t, the dawn would have never came for the dead-there would just be nearly two hours of zombies walking around the streets and that would be boring.
When it comes to titles, sometimes they come pretty easily to me and other times I labor over them obsessively because after all, most people’s interest is sparked by the title of a book. I would have been hard to spark interest for Guardian of the Dark Night if it had been titled, The Hottie in the Dark. My second book’s title came from a friend who read parts of it. Titles are important as much as the characters so my advice is to always take the time to really develop a great title.
So when you come up with a story, where do your characters come from? Do they come from your deepest desires? Are they sprung from your fantasies or your nightmares? Did you hear a song and simply feel inspiration or look at a picture? Basically what I am asking, “What came first your chicken or the egg?”