Characterization and that place we go….
The other day, I was writing a particularly ironic scene in Ferran’s Map (a partly bitter, partly humorous conversation between Silas and Ferran, who I always think of as “coworkers who don’t like each other but occasionally get along”), and I found myself laughing and smiling as I wrote, my heart skipping a bit, enjoying the humor, really feeling the characters. And I realized, suddenly, that I don’t think many readers hear much about an author’s personal connection to what they write. Authors always talk about careers, their biographies, how they plot, “what might happen next,” what research they put into the book, where their inspiration comes from, etc. But rarely do I read about the personal joy–and slightly delusional love-affair–that an author feels for their books. Or, more specifically, their characters.
I’m certain not all authors feel quite the same about their craft as I do. I’m certain some authors don’t connect to their characters in a highly emotional or personal way, and that’s fine, there is room for all sorts of books in the world. But you could say I feel deeply invested in the characters in my stories. They bleed outside my writing into everyday life. I hold imaginary conversations with them when I’m stuck in traffic, or listening to a good song, or zoning out in the middle of a movie. I linger on their pasts, their futures, their connection to one another, how their interactions weave in and out of the plot. And when I write those scenes, I put myself in their minds, imagine what they’re feeling, what they’re thinking and why. I love them all dearly. Especially in The Cat’s Eye Chronicles, I’ve been writing the series for so long, I feel like I’ve grown up with these characters. I’ve seen them change as I’ve changed. I feel like I know them so well now. It is so strange, to be in love with these make-believe people that I pulled out of thin air. But there it is.
Another truth about writing–as you age, you just become better. As you experience life, that knowledge and wisdom of the world becomes fuel for the next story. You get to know so many different kinds of people, and sometimes you meet people who really stand out, who have distinct personalities and characteristics, and you realize–wow, I could use that in a book. Most of my characters are partially based on people I’ve known in real life, from Ferran’s chaotic adrenaline-junky nature, to Crash’s tortured and regret-ridden soul, to Sora’s bright-eyed curiosity about the world, to Lori’s disciplined practicality. I can feel all of these characters inside of me, just as I’ve met them in real life, just as I’ve asked those same big questions: “What makes you who you are? Where did you come from? How did you get here?”
The stories of people’s lives fascinate me. I am always interested to learn more about a person, their history, and what makes them tick. And I find myself constantly asking, “But what did you learn from the experience? How did you grow? Or what great mountain planted itself inside your heart to stop you from moving forward? Do you love better now? Do you love less? Have you found where you fit in the world?” These questions inform my writing, but they also inform my heart. I want to learn about people. I want to write about characters who can reach out of the story and grab you, and won’t let go. I want you to know these characters as I know them.
Writing is learning. It is a process of insight and creative analysis. It is taking the outside world and forming it into something new, laden with themes, connections and meanings, all to create a story that reflects our inner selves. It is a place I go to meet myself, to think about people and create characters who we can all connect to.
I love my craft. I love the people I write about. I am a little more than halfway through the rough draft of Ferran’s Map and as the characters interact with each other, slowly building upon their experiences, their evolving thoughts and hopes, I find myself becoming more and more excited about this next installment in the series. Finally, we can reach some sort of catharsis. Crash and Sora can face each other as equal hearts. Ferran and Lori can honestly confront their past together. Silas, Burn, Caprion, Krait and the rest of the characters continue to show sides of themselves that I never expected. I am in love with these characters–the driving force behind my work–and I can’t wait to share the next leg of their journey with you.