Tag Archives: Characters

Fridays Flash

Every Friday I’ll be posting a flash fiction or a character interview from Wytch.

A glimmer, or indeed a flash, into the story that one day, *sigh* will be finished!

This week, my first week, is Destiny-ations, a little look at Ellen, one of my minor characters, who I thought deserved a voice of her own.

My destiny was the same as my mothers.

Hers, was identical to that of her mothers before her, and so on through the ages. All identical. 

I didn’t want identical. I didn’t want the same. I didn’t want to tread where others had previously trodden. 

I am aware that there are some folk who like to walk in the footsteps of those who have since passed, to step through the echoes of time, but my life – my story, isn’t his-story, nor is it her-story. It is mine.

I was born during the Sacred Moon, just as my mother had been, and her mother before her.

Tiresome. To know that from the moment I was born, my path was awaiting those first tentative steps upon it, to carry me from that moment to my last. An identical path. It angered me.

I was no different to any other newborn, that the Water Raptures visit to deliver their fate, the only difference was that we all knew my fate. This is how it has always been in our family, destined to be the Quenes hand. Our destiny set.  

True. We are each destined. All the many roads take us to the same end, the destination of which is certain. It is the choices we make upon our travel to that end, that are not so certain. The choices determine how we arrive, whether we stroll to our destiny taking many detours, resting at the wells to drink, or rush to greet our destiny in haste and in thirst.

I have been blessed. I see those things that others can not, and I drink deeply at each well. However, it is something I had to learn.

I found my teacher, my guide, quite by chance, because of the tedium I felt about my destiny, of following in my mothers footsteps. I never bothered to look ahead, after all, I knew what lay there. Still, I was a curious child and instead of looking down in misery, I looked elsewhere, for adventure.

I peered around corners and doorways, into yards, through fences and gates. I climbed trees to find the horizon that others could not yet see, I opened boxes that sat upon shelves holding their secrets under closed lids and sometimes locks.

If I was spoken to, I rarely looked upon their face, I studied the way their hands moved as they spoke. If their hair was shiny and oiled or dirty and dry. I looked at saliva bubbling in the corners of their mouths and if their eyebrows were neat or untamed. I was always looking for something else, something that others may not see.

Out on walks, I tripped and stumbled, bruised and grazed, always because I paid attention to different things. I was 9 and returning home with lavender bread that my mother had sent me out to collect. On that journey back, through the trees that lined the stony path, the sunlight cut through the branches and stopped me in an instant. 

It had been raining and the air snapped around me, a thundery cloud above, threatened to soak the land below it once more.  It’s scent surrounded me, a primal musty smell that leaves an after taste in your mouth of damp earth. I always loved that smell, it reminds me that there is something more to where you stand at that moment, something bigger than time itself. With the smell enveloping me, and the sunlight bathing me, I felt as though I was standing in magic itself.

Dust particles danced gracefully around me, I saw flickers and orbs of colour. The branches swayed in the breeze chasing the light away. When it returned, it bought with it the sweet sweet song of the thrush. Transfixed was I, caught in the beauty of nature. Entranced by magic indeed.

Had I have not disliked my future so much and refused to look at what was in front of me. Had I have not looked up instead of straight ahead, I wouldn’t have seen that show of magic. I wouldn’t have looked around for more, and I wouldn’t have seen the gate.

The gate was small, woven from hawthorn, hazel and gorse, a simple gate, and the simple gate was ajar. Me, a rebellious child, I could not resist such a temptation to see what that gate would open to.

That gate saved me. It saved me from myself. It showed me that my path was a blessed one, regardless of the fact that the path was the same as my mothers, and her mothers before.

As I stepped over the threshold and into the garden, I was greeted by yellow flowers, green herbs, red poppies and even weeds. A host of plants, rich in fragrance, that all looked to have been planted with care, consideration and love.

I’d never met a wytch before, and when she spoke to me, I didn’t look to see if her hair was oiled or dry, I didn’t notice her eyebrows or if the saliva collected at the corners of her mouth, I simply stared at the eye. The one eye that was turned inward. It was as though someone had erased the colour, the iris, the pupil, it wasn’t turned inward. What stories had I been told!

She spoke softly, yet laughed loudly. That day, my first day of meeting her, she showed me that standing in magic was a rare treat indeed, but to walk in magic was rarer still.

She taught me that it didn’t matter that my path was the same, that all roads lead us to our end. That it was the people on our path that would make it so unique.

Such a simple notion. This woman gave me, a nine year old, time and understanding to explain the meaning of our destinies. In gratitude I left her the loaf of lavender bread, my mother was so angry with me, but it abated when she saw the difference within me regarding her life that I had to follow. 

I visited the wytch twice a week, from that day, until her death.  

Forever teaching me, guiding me, showing me how to look for the beauty in all things, even those that appeared ugly to me. She taught me about herbs and flowers. About the birds and different insects that each held their place within her garden, our land.

She taught me how to see the various avenues and lanes that branch off the main road, that each one is a choice, a possibility, an adventure. 

Throughout my life, she was the one who made my path unique. This beautiful woman taught me everything I know, she enriched my world and showed me that looking ahead is full of joy and beauty. That we need to stop and rest, to look around, to drink, so that we won’t trip or thirst. She taught me to be a witch.

Our destinies are the same, yet we are each unique.

Whilst we travel on the same road toward the same end, we can still experience different aspects that life has to offer. It doesn’t matter that someone once stood where you now stand, because it is who stood with them that counted. It is who stands with you that matters to you. It is those people who make your path worth travelling.”  

Ellen appears in Wytch at various points within the Royal storyline.

She lives at the capital city, Magda, in Dagda Mead.

She is excellent at keeping secrets, will occasionally meddle in other peoples love lives, and stands tall and strong in her convictions.

In memory of her mother and to commemorate the day in which her views of her mother changed, she bakes lavender bread at every Sacred Moon.

 

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Creating my characters

I have discovered over the last couple of weeks, that creating characters is something I’m rather good  at! Discussions with other writers, and from blog posts that I’ve read recently, that this isn’t the case for most.

I’ve found this interesting, not that I believe I’m suddenly an expert on creating fleshed out and interesting characters, but it has made me question why.

Why am I good at this? What is it that I do that gives my characters an edge?

So, I went off and dissected a few thoughts, and a couple of my guys to experiment on, as well as hitting the research on the web and in my books. I came up with this list of reasons.

  1. I people watch. I am obsessed with human behaviour. I have quirks and like to figure out other peoples, for example, if I’m in a restaurant, I will watch how people hold their knives and forks. I watch how people carry bags, sit down, talk with their hands, hold their shoulders or head when they are listening to others. I concentrate so much sometimes on what other people are doing that I nearly forget what I’m supposed to be doing. This kind of information stays with you, it’s stored to be used later when a character needs a little bit of human behaviour.
  2. I love numerology. I’m not particularly good at it, but it serves a purpose for me and my characters. I add up names and decide whether the number suits the character and their place in my story. Funnily enough, this also gives me direction with that character, sometimes unexpectedly.
  3. I’m empathic. I find it very easy, too easy sometimes, to place myself in someone else’s shoes. I can walk into a room and sense the emotion within it quickly. When I was younger I would hug people I passed or speak to them for no other reason than I felt their sadness or loneliness, or just because I knew they would make me laugh! I met a lot of very good friends this way.
  4. Finally, I draw on history. Personal history, as well as actual historical fact. When I hear a name, I will instantly connect it to a person I once knew, any famous person associated with it, and it’s place in history. That being said, I don’t like to draw on reality for my fiction. (Except in one book that’s about sisters – One’s a trapeze artist and the other a nun… They’re based on mine and my sisters dream jobs when we were kids! True story…)

More than this, I like to play around with the psychology of a person. Not to any great extent, but just enough to get an idea of the core personality. Are they:

  1. Sanguine? Playful, sociable and lively. Are they talkative and warm hearted?
  2. Choleric? Ambitious, practical and extroverted. Are they good planners and at times restless or impulsive?
  3. Melancholic? Focused, conscientious and sympathetic. Do they become preoccupied with the sorrows of life, can they suffer with mood swings?
  4. Phlegmatic? Caring, thoughtful and ponderous. Can they be clumsy at times, and quite content with solitude?

I then move on to the deeper aspects of the character and their place within the story. I begin with the archetype they will represent. Are they my hero? My best friend, lover, mentor? Could they be the antagonist or a similar obstacle for my hero? Then I go for the personality defect.

As far as the protagonist and antagonist are concerned, they can be total opposites on this chart. But, whichever label you choose to associate with your character, a fear comes along with it.

Personality Defects

Arrogance: A fear of vulnerability.

Self Deprecation: A fear of inadequacy.

Impatience: A fear of losing.

Martyrdom: A fear of worthlessness.

Self Destruction: A fear of losing control.

Greed: A fear of lacking love.

Stubbornness, in the middle, having a fear of change.

Now. Where do they fit in the story? Sometimes I have created a character that only has a small part to play, they have been absolutely necessary, as without them the plot couldn’t move forward. On other occasions I have spent so long shaping and forming someone, only to find out they didn’t belong, they weren’t even needed! So make sure they have their place.

With this in mind, I go on to give them a bit of a back story. Brief sometimes, let’s not get side tracked!

Which brings us to the fun stuff. This will come so easily if you’ve laid your foundations, similar to those above that work for me.

Let’s throw in some flaws and quirks. Deepen their fear and for good measure, add a secret. Try to keep these aspects of personality a little hazy, cloudy, almost dreamlike. Each will hint at where the character is headed, where they have come from and how they will react to certain disasters, plot twists, and their successes.

I also like to interview my characters, once I get to this point anyway… I ask them all sorts of questions and eventually they begin to develop habits, their quirks become animated and their humour shines through, they relax. Which, in turn makes my writing seem more relaxed and realistic.

What do I ask them? What would you ask anybody in order to get to know them?

How do you write your characters, do you have a similar processes?

Happy creating, and happy writing!

 

 


I hear voices. .

(But) they (don’t) tell me to stop! I love that song by Kasabian. It makes think about all the crazy voices I’ve ever heard within my imaginings when I’m plotting and writing.

Creating characters is possibly my favourite part about writing. It’s what I’ve been doing for most of today.

Mostly, the process starts with a voice. As I’ve said before, I’m not a visual person at first, so they come to me with a sound or a feeling. There have been occasions, most oddly, that they’ve come to me as a smell first.

One character was the sweet, fresh, taste of just picked apples. With raindrops on the creamy, green skin. My mouth watered and puckered suddenly craving a bite. I then heard her singing, a gentle hum at first, and as she broke out her pitch perfect lyrics I knew instantly that she was a young mother, in another space and time. She was on her way back from the orchard before the rains returned, to gather in the few items of clothing that hung on a line, blowing steadily in the wind. I didn’t see her until after I had seen the clothes. Then she was gone, after a momentary glimpse of her straw coloured hair. she came back a few days later, and I got to know her a little. I tossed a few ideas around in my head to see where she could fit into the story I was writing at the time. She didn’t belong there. She didn’t belong anywhere. Not until I started writing this book.

She only has a small part to play, but she is needed, vital I would say, to the setting and structure of a particular village scene. I think she’s happy there. She didn’t protest!

Regardless, however your characters manifest themselves, it’s so important to get to know them. As you would a person in the physical world, discover them, pay attention to them. Even allow them to anger you, betray you, make you scream or laugh or cry.

Beginnings.

Judgements are so often made in reality, upon a first meeting, we privately go through a checklist of sorts:

  • What does this person look like, are they wearing similar clothes to us, do they look fun or boring?
  • Are there any characteristics that show them to be kind, angry, quiet, studious, etc.
  • Is there anything special, weird, or otherwise about this person, scars, a wacky colour hair, crazy jewelry for example.

As you progress in the getting to know you stage, you discover more about them. Where did they come from, where are they going? What are their favourites – books, music, colours, foods, drinks etc. And what is it that makes them laugh, or cry?

Later comes the deeper stuff, the richer details, such as religion and belief, what football team do they support (yes, it is that deep! 😉 ) Eek, dare I say political beliefs!

More than that, you learn about their secrets, their desires and their fears.

Move in with them and you get to find out oh so much more. As Shrek says, ogres have layers! Live with your characters. Sure, it might get crowded, but you’ll know ’em.

Take careful notice of your characters. They each have to be as unique as we are in the real world. Think about their little habits and idiosyncrasies. The swagger in which they walk, their tone of voice, and inflections. 

When it comes to writing them in your book, you will know something of them that no one else does, and it will come out in your writing giving them depth and dimension. It really helps to know these things so we, as writers, can show our readers, not tell them, what our characters are really about. 

And, when it’s all over, you get to kick them out and get the house to yourself again. For a while anyway.


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