Friday, 22 July 2016

Character: The Peripherals

This is the final instalment of posts about my writing process.  So last but not least I'm focusing on my peripheral characters.

It seems wrong to name these characters such: marginal, outlying, minor.  Because they are far from it.  Often they are integral to the further development of the protagonist and serve as strong a role as the antagonist.

My list of subsidiary characters will seem strange to some of you.  But what my protagonist requires I write to accommodate that need.  So they range from aunts, brothers, fathers and magical realms to animals.  Here they are in all their glory:

Roxanne, Francesca and Thorin (Sharp Dark Things)
Bruno Kiefer (Sharp Dark Things)
Faetaera (Sharp Dark Things)
Arthur Deed (Palindrome)
Horatio Luther Henry (Of Dragons & Witches series)
Jinx & Snookie (Of Dragons & Witches series)
Chisanda (Where Rainbows Hide)
Marco Zeppo (Where Rainbows Hide & When Rainbows Cry)

In Sharp Dark Things: Roxanne, Francesca and Thorin could almost be protagonists in their own right.  As Alanna’s mother, Roxanne’s death is required or there would be no story.  Roxanne’s sister, Francesca is integral to the plot as she is a character who both hinders and helps Alanna in equal measure.  Alongside Francesca I needed a character who would explain why Francesca shuts her life up in a box and so her twin Thorin was created. 

The creation of one character can at times produce the need for another character.  This is not always the case as I sometimes keep them in a coma in the backstory so they never get into the book itself.  But at other times the character forces their way into the plot.  This was indeed the case with Bruno.

He is Alanna’s father and comes with his own set of issues which could be a novella in their own right.  I wanted Alanna to have a complicated relationship with her father which would explain the absence of a male role model in her life.  While Alanna’s day to day existence is peopled with strong women, her fantasy world is filled with all manner of creatures: male, female and other.  There are correlations to my own life here.  Growing up, my world was full of such Amazonian women.  But I was nevertheless aware of the diversity around me.  It has been absorbed into my writing via my fantasy creations.

Bruno however, is not a good father.  This is not a reflection on my dad.  In fact, Arthur Deed and Horatio Henry are much more like him.  Arthur is my dad in his non-receptive moods when he couldn’t be bothered to understand why the teenage me was crying on my mother’s shoulder over a broken love affair.  Horatio however, is my dad’s unfailing support of my life decisions, his deep love for me – which I have never doubted – his kindness, his gentleness and incredible sense of humour.

Other subsidiary characters are born out of my love for subjects or things.  So as an animal lover it seemed only fitting that at some point one or two would creep into my work.  In childhood I had a little Pekinese called Snookie who apparently shared my cot, bottle and pacifier.  From stories told by family members, we were inseparable.  So his literary counterpart has made an appearance in my Dragons & Witches series.  I’ve changed the breed to a terrier but the cheeky personality remains the same.

It seemed unfair to have a dog in the mix without the assistance of a supporting cat character.  So Jinx is in these stories to serve as Kastaspella’s pet.  But I also wanted to move away from the run of the mill narrators.  Having owned both cats and dogs I also thought it would be fun to illustrate the differences between their personalities.  I was further inspired by a short piece Romi wrote on Wattpad.  I hope she doesn’t mind that I’ve taken her idea and run away with it.

My strangest yet most wonderful character thus far has been Faetaera.  It is the magical realm which features in Sharp Dark Things.  The first character I met from Faetaera was a pixie called Sprax.  Once he launched himself at me, I was forced to create a world for him to inhabit.  So Faetaera came into existence.  It is still a realm in progress as it is a fantasy world and these, as you well know, are in constant flux.

While you would think the characters in my science fiction books would be equally as unusual as my fantasy ones, this is not entirely so.  Yes, Chisanda is a genetically engineered chimpanzee with a human splice in her DNA but Marco Zeppo is not unusual.  The creation of Chisanda came about because I love apes, specifically orang-utans, gorillas and chimpanzees.  I always turn to what I know and love when I write.  I hope this serves to give the characters fullness.

Marco’s character is another example of someone who goes through trials and tribulations but comes out good in the end.  This is because I truly believe we can throw off adversity and be the best possible us there is.

As with every character I write, even my marginal characters are imbued with the personalities of the people around me, whether they are loved ones, enemies or merely passers-by.  I am always watching, listening, absorbing.  Sometimes I’m not even aware I’ve done it until I start writing and a character emerges on the page.

This is how my characters come into being and I know no other way. 

So I apologise to all those who know me.  If you believe you see yourselves or fragments of your personalities in my stories, I promise, I always change names to protect the innocent.  And sometimes, even the guilty.

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