Monday, September 10, 2012

Characters. Roaming.

A favourite quote of mine came from an american author; "for me, really, the written word is always stronger than film", and though I'm useless against the wash of a great cinematic score, I must say I agree.

One of the most fascinating things about writing is that, with these little characters you see before you now, images, thoughts and emotions can be evoked so strongly that perhaps one could actually be moved to tears by the death of a character, or laugh aloud at an amusing utterance from another. It's somewhat bizarre that we create such a natural link to these tiny dots and lines, so much so that often, it's as if we're hearing a voice narrate them in our heads. Yet perhaps this link between text and thought is natural after all. People have used sketches and symbols to communicate as long as we've been around. It's as if writing is the third part, the missing link, or the yong that the ying and yang of speech and gesture simply can't live without.

I used to scoff quietly at authors who explained how characters 'live inside their heads', but like a convert to vegemite (yes, they're rare), I now understand what they were saying. All this information needs to exist somewhere first before hitting the stone, or paper, or stylus, and in the mind of the creator is the most pure form it can take.

In the story I'm working on, Merius, the main character, took a while to develop. I would have one idea for him, then another. His appearance changed a little, his mannerisms changed a lot. This is simply the process you go through when writing. Then like reverse-footage of a chocolate statue coming out of a cooking pot - they solidified, and Merius seemingly became someone I actually know in my head.

Perhaps this weird sensation is because as a writer, you spend so much darned time with the character that eventually your mind is tricked into thinking they exist. Perhaps it's aliens. But regardless, it is great fun writing him.

There are some moments which, in many stories I read have been left out, the appreciation of something simple, or that night alone reading a book in your duvet, and I feel these are important. They're realistic - and though sometimes admittedly a little dry for the reader - they give Merius a texture which I think secretly we all appreciate.

As well as this, there are interesting traits that I've never given a character before, but that I think have been really challenging to deal with. His experiences outside his tightly-controlled home for example, are an oddity. For us things like a cobblestone street may be mildly interesting, but certainly not awe-worthy. But for Merius every little thing that lies outside the Castellum is totally new, and it's been tough to understate his wonderment and make his discoveries bearable for the reader, who is already more than familiar with these things, while still conveying his excitement and interest.

His feelings for Allion, Derek and Arliane (in Part 2 particularly) would be still another. Merius has never had true friends aside from his fellow Adherent, Trevars. The concept of a relationship is completely foreign to the Castellum inhabitants, so for these people to fall into Merius' life is a foreign concept for him.

Because of all this, I find it fascinating to develop these moments. For some reason I find it really endearing to watch this character learn about his own interests from a distance - despite my supposedly dictating his every move. Instead, this is where the character for me is very much alive and doing his own thing in my head. I'm simply picking and choosing the parts I want to share.

Fascinating, maybe, but admittedly it's also quite hard to manage. I am acutely aware that I'm not just overloading the character, but the reader also, and I'm always aware that readers may get switched off by the amount of information I'm trying to pass over. So, I have to be a little careful. My goal is obviously to keep it interesting and balance these moments out. I think then the payoff for the reader will be worth it, especially once some of the puzzles begin to get resolved. In short, I know it's important to have a good balance of intrigue and explanation, and hopefully readers will find this when they dive in.

I'm so excited to be working on this book. Once you make a decision to commit to something like this, failure or success, it's a great experience - and merely going through the motions and finding my style as a writer has been fun, no matter the outcome.