Thursday, November 13, 2014

Hello, I'm Your New Character (Surviving NaNoWriMo #3)

Hello all!
I hit 40k today. It seems blogging when I hit a milestone has become a tradition. Today I want to talk about something that, if you're not a writer, will probably make you think I am completely, 100% out of my mind.
This post is all about how I meet characters.

Meeting Characters?

That's an interesting way to phrase it, isn't it? Authors create characters, right?
Well, yes. At least at first.
Or at least that's how it went for me. At first I would think and create a character, who would gradually evolve into something more amazing and more lifelike than I first imagined. Think Transformers. Yup, you've got the visual.

Now, when I meet a character, it's more like this.
I have no idea where they come from. One day, they just show up. Perhaps I'm watching television, reading a book, watching a movie, or just thinking about one of my friends. Then all of the sudden there's a new character in my mind. Now, think transporter from Star Trek. There you go!
Out of nowhere there's a new character. Normally all I know is gender and impression, maybe a bit of backstory.
This happened a few days ago thanks to two things. One was NaNoWriMo, and the other was my recent Les Miserables kick.
I was thinking about my NaNo story and just chilling out. I was thinking about my favorite character from Les Mis (Enjolras, in case you didn't know) and about what made him so amazing; why I liked him so much.
Hello, awesome.

I came to some interesting conclusions. I was simply minding my own business; enjoying a productive session of thought-time.
That was when I heard a 'knock at the door'.
There's no better way to describe it. I can tell a new character is about to enter my imagination.
"Don't!" I always chide myself. "Don't do it, you don't need another character. He'll want his own story and you have enough already. Do not open that door!"
Here is where Alice speaks to me on a personal level.
Of course I was going to open the door for that poor, lost character in need of someone to breathe life into them. How could I say no?
I opened the door and there stood a young man. He didn't look to be any more than 24 years of age. He had a group of friends. He was a rebel, but for a good cause. He was leader.
"Hello," he said. "I'm your missing piece."

And that he was. It was as if a wizard had marked my door to send him along at just the right time.
Of course, I knew very little about him. He wasn't one of the easy characters who willingly spills there entire life story for me the moment the door is opened.
He came in quietly. And he intrigued me.
Over the next several days, I tried several times to get him to disclose some more information about himself. He refused.
I wrote him into my outline; although he was still nameless. He would often tease me, as if he were just about to reveal something more about himself, but then change his mind.
It was infuriating.

One afternoon, I was fed up. I sat down with a piece of paper, and I interviewed him.
I would write what I said, and then his response.
All of the sudden, he was willing to speak to me.
Finally, he seemed to say. Finally you're curious enough.
And so we talked.

Ah. Yes. I understand. That does sound odd. But if it works, it works.

I carried on interviewing him. I learned many new things, such as his hair and eye color (black hair, brown eyes) and some of the things he stood for. Every moment I found myself falling more and more in love with him.
Still, I worried. Sometimes when a character is inspired by another character, there is the worry of the two characters becoming more similar. I found myself trying to force him to be different from Enjolras, which he really didn't appreciate it. So, I mentioned it to him.
He was not worried. "Was he a good leader?" he asked.
"The best."
"Perhaps I, too, am a good leader. Perhaps we are similar because we have that in common."
Yes, fictional character. Thank you again for dropping massively profound thoughts on me out of nowhere.
Our conversation continued, but another thing began to bother me.
"I don't know your name."
"I know. I haven't told you."
Thus began a guessing game, which I failed horribly at. He gave me a hint. The letter J.
I couldn't seem to come up with a name.
Therefore, I took desperate measures.

I annoyed him.

He and I had a recurring joke where I would simply insist he looked like George Blagden. Somehow it was stuck in my mind that it simply had to be him. He would hear nothing of it.
My questions is why he was so upset.
I mean, come on.
George Blagden.
I insisted. I even called him George.
He became more and more irritated until he commanded I stop, or he would cease speaking to me.
My response?
"Sure. Whatever, Jacob."
It was as if a light had come on.
Jacob.

The mysterious character had a name.

I continued to talk with him and learned more and more about him. He only became more and more interesting by the moment.

Eventually I decided I had learned enough to put the paper away for a while. It was an amazing experience, and I learned much about my new character.

This was several days ago. Since then, I have been thinking about and looking into his character more and more. Today was the day I introduced him into my story, and as I wrote this blog post I realized I did not yet have a picture of him. I browsed my "New Characters" board on Pinterest and found a picture that at least resembled him.
Meet Jacob Lawrence.

Thanks for reading this post! I'd love to know how all of you end up discovering your characters, and if you think I'm completely and utterly mad yet.