Monday, October 5, 2009

Pieces of Me - Where Characters Come From

Let's welcome Anida Adler and learn about where her characters come from.

Luke pushed a hand through his dark brown hair. Gay? She thought he was gay? He cast a murderous glance at the closed bedroom door. Frustration manifested in a surge of heat to his crotch. How in hell did she make that kind of mistake? Six years of being friends, and she hadn't guessed by now how he felt about her? She'd change her mind about his being gay in a hurry if she could read his thoughts right now. On the other side of that door, she probably poured herself another cup of tea, calm as a tortoise on sleeping pills, while he cast longing glances at the cabin bed. How often had he dreamed of joining Meve in the mile-high club when he tossed and turned on it, the world spinning below?

He checked his watch. No time for fuming now, unless he did it while getting ready. With a frown like a thundercloud, he stomped into the bathroom to shave.

Luke stopped in his tracks. I deleted the sentence and wrote it again.
...he stomped into the bathroom to shave.

He didn't. In fact, he folded his arms across his chest and got that stubborn set to his mouth that I loved so much.

Luke, stomp into the bathroom to shave.

No reaction, save a shake of the head. What the hell was wrong with the man?

Hey. You're my creation, my character. Stomp into the damn bathroom and shave, will you.

He still wouldn't do as he was told. Something wasn't right. I mimicked his earlier gesture and pushed my fingers through my hair. Why couldn't the men in my life just be less complicated, for God's sake?

What's your problem? You haven't shaved for four days, and you need to look smart for the meeting when the plane lands. Go into the bathroom and scrape your beard off your chin.
All I got for that was a sarcastic stare, a lifted eyebrow. Scrape my beard off my chin? the look said. Really?

Yes, with a razor. You know there's one in the bathroom, the flight staff always see to it that there's a fresh one before take-off.

That's when it dawned on me. Luke doesn't use a normal razor, he has an electric one. An exaggerated nod confirmed I was on the right track.

But Luke, your electric razor is in your travel bag. And your travel bag is in the main cabin, where Meve is. Can't you just use a normal razor this once so you can avoid talking to her? You're upset with her, remember.

Ah. Damn. Normal razors gave him rash. I growled, tipped my head back and tried to think a way around this. There wasn't one. "Fine," I muttered and carried on typing. As it was, the fact that Luke had to go back into the main cabin led to a minor resolution which made the later more major resolution of the issues between them work better.

I'm not kidding you, no. My characters become people as real as you and me, in my mind, once they have taken shape. It frustrates the living daylights out of me sometimes, but in truth, I wouldn't have it any other way. I love each and every one of them, and identify very strongly with the author character in Andrew M. Greely's The God Game, who at a point in the novel explains how he was sad for a character of his from a story he wrote long ago, who was now going through a divorce. The first romance I wrote (one of a series of terrible contemporaries I produced while making the switch from fantasy to romance before finding my niche by combining the two) led to the couple in question settling near Carlingford, which is not far from where I live. When I cycled in the area some months later, I was aware of their presence nearby. It felt so real that I wished I could visit them and see how they were doing. But no. Had I popped in for a cup of tea, they would have felt awkward. They don't know me the way I know them. And in truth, after a while the characters from a completed novel become like good friends you've lost contact with. The closeness you once shared fades, and eventually you are strangers to each other once more.

Each and every character grows from a seed. Some aspect of my personality germinates in the flowerbed of a story idea. Soon the seed grows into a plant in its own right. The character develops a distinct personality with traits I don't share. Sometimes, analysing the similarities can be disconcerting. It's all very well to know pragmatic Teagan and knowledge-loving Rònàn from The Pebble grew from pieces of me. The Ancient is a different matter. Sure, sensitive poet Tadhg is a wonderful man, but when we start talking of what Morrigàn has in common with me, I prefer to change the subject. I know where the wine-swilling, cynical, sarcastic, oft-depressed goddess took root, but yes, um, lovely weather we're having today, isn't it?

Between us, she is my favourite character, and it was a world of fun to pair her with a man you'd never have picked for her and so undermine those walls she'd built around her heart. But I digress.

My sister once said to me, after reading one of the many essays I wrote as a teenager: "Don't you feel uncomfortable blurting your soul out like this?" I do blurt my soul out when I write a story. To me, writing is about communicating ideas, about working through issues that puzzle me to convey the manner in which I explain them to myself. Stories are often born on long cycling trips, when I have time and silence to think. I often remember her words when I see some hidden aspect of me in a character.

I don't do character bibles and in-depth written descriptions for myself before I start writing. This could well be a weakness, but I've come to accept that I am not a planner. I must qualify here: I do a lot of planning in my head. By the time I put fingers to keyboard, the characters of my novels have lived in my brain for a long time, and I know them very well. I tried, when I just started writing, to plan on paper as I was advised to do, and it was disastrous. I became bogged down and lost my way with the novel I was working on. Only when I tossed the written plans and character bibles in the bin, did the story flow once more.

The female character's appearance is always clear in my mind. Males are more difficult. I know the personality, and then browse photos on the internet until I find one that matches. Sometimes a specific photo of an actor will match my character perfectly, but another photo of the same guy just doesn't do it for me.

And then, in the writing, I get to know them more fully. I live and laugh and cry with them for a while, then send them out to bring the same delight to you. Finally, readers bring ever more life to characters. When I think of the characters of novels I've discarded, they seem a little washed out. Those who inhabit stories I have been able to share with others, are more vivid, have sronger colours in my mind.

I will never stop being grateful to every one of you who share my delight. And from that other world where they live, my characters smile and nod their gratitude to you, too, for giving them the life blood of your reading enjoyment.

Now let's read a little about her lastest book.

What would you do if you fell in love with the goddess of death?

June 1945 - Tadhg Daniels sees a woman clad in strange clothes and a feathered cloak, but she’s invisible to everyone else. He’s convinced his mind has been unhinged by the horrors of the D-day landings four days before, but when she appears to him again, the woman proves she is real.

She is Morrigan, goddess of death, come to warn him his life is about to end.

Morrigan is disturbed by the man she meets. He looks in her eyes unflinching, while all others avoid her gaze. She’s never found such a strong will to survive in any of her charges before. He refuses to accept he’s going to die.

There is a way for Tadhg to cheat death, a secret Morrigan has guarded for millennia. Morrigan can save him if she takes him as her lover, but sex with the goddess of death will change him. He needs time to decide if he’s prepared to give up his humanity in order to be with her forever.

But Tadhg is not the only one who knows Morrigan’s secret. Someone else wants to take by force the gift she can bestow. And he’ll stop at nothing to get it.

Excerpt 3:

He hadn’t expected her to laugh. What he had expected he didn’t know, but not laughter.

"What’s so funny?"

"You love me? You don’t know what you’re talking about."

Annoyance flared in his breast. "Enlighten me, then."

She regarded him with a hard stare. "I’m a cynical, world-weary, chronically depressed goddess.

Do you know what I feel when people blubber over farewells to loved ones?"

He shook his head.

"Irritation, Tadhg. I have no sympathy for humans’ emotions. When I discern the utter stupidity they allowed to rule their lives, all I want to do is throttle them, help them into the afterlife even faster than they’re due to enter it. It is no less than they deserve for wasting such a precious gift as life."

"Oh." He snapped his fingers. "That must be why you sat in the dark for hours feeling so depressed, you’d have killed yourself if you could."

She turned from him, yanked a curtain away from a shelf, dropped it, and moved on to the next.

"Ha!" She grabbed a bottle of wine. The cork sprang from the neck as if it was champagne. He didn’t miss the tremor of her fingers as she poured. "You think what you feel is love. How can that be? We’ve known each other no more than days, poet. Love is something that grows over years, like a strong oak."

"And I know what I feel for you is the healthy sapling that will grow to a mighty tree."

She swallowed half the glass and slammed it down on the table. "What you feel, human, is lust. No more, no less."

"That is not true."

"Oh?" She smiled. No trace of warmth in the gesture, she turned to him and put a hand on his shoulder. A tingle of awareness shivered over his skin. Slowly, she traced a trail over his chest, down to his navel. Warm, sweet sexual energy flooded his muscles, suffused his blood, and pooled in his groin. "What do you feel when I touch you, then? A warm sensation in your heart?"

Tadhg grabbed her wrist, pulled her body close, and brought his mouth down on hers. She stiffened in his grasp, but he put a hand on the nape of her neck and held her to him. He teased the seam of her lips with his tongue, nipped at her bottom lip until she opened for him. He plunged his tongue into her warm mouth, tasted the mellow redness of wine in an erotic sense deluge that added taste and fragrance to a mimic of the full possession of her body, which he truly desired. Morrigán moaned, and a flash of white heat exploded in Tadhg’s brain. He put his hands on her firm behind and lifted her from the floor, ground her pelvis into his taut sex. "That too," he answered her question, stifling her no doubt snarky reply with a renewed onslaught against her defences.

Thank you, Anida for stopping by.