It started when I was a child. I’d read books (my three favorites: Little Women, A Little Princess, and The Secret Garden) and envision myself there with the characters. But, I was never satisfied playing the part of Beth March or Sara Crew. I’d think of ways someone else would handle their situations, someone with different personality traits. That would lead me to fabricating another character. I’d name her and weave her into the storyline, editing the existing plot so she’d fit. Eventually, the story would evolve so the plot centered on her alone. Then, I’d play pretend – glorying in the world I’d altered to not only fit, but also revolve around, my newest character. As I grew older, I began to do it with TV shows and movies, always turning my creation into the heroine of the piece.
I no longer need the crutch of other people’s stories. I make my own. But the love of characterization still lives in me. I begin with a few traits – what will become their most dominant habits or qualities. Then, I scour the Internet for images of people who have similar physical characteristics as I envision for them. Once I have the basics down, I flesh out those principals of height, weight and hair color with the more subtle details. Even though most of it never touches the actual story, I need to know what they eat, what time they get up, what they dream about, if they shower or take baths…everything. From the major, traumatic event in kindergarten that made my heroine distrustful of men, to the reason why she thought paste might be tasty — it’s all important.
Of course, nothing is perfect the first time around. I find as I write more, my characters take on their own lives. My preconceived notions of them are sometimes disproved when they refuse to do a certain scene the way I wanted. I have to go back and consider if that idea of them is flawed, or if the scene is not right. Usually, it’s because that character has become something other than I’d originally planned for him or her to be.
I had that problem recently with Quinn. Initially, Quinn was a miniature of his uncle, always wanting to do the right thing, always wanting to be at peace with everyone. But, when tragedy struck, Quinn became rigid. He refused to accept what had happened and became impervious to reason. I didn’t know what to do. He wasn’t acting how I’d envisioned. The scene was crucial to the plot and had to stay, so I was forced to go back and look at his background. What I found was that Quinn wasn’t such a malleable guy, after all. In fact, he saw things as pretty much black and white, right and wrong. He couldn’t step outside himself and see a situation objectively, and certainly couldn’t view events from someone else’s perspective. He took me by surprise. And I learned that’s the way creating characters goes, it’s a growing process for everyone.
So, in the spirit of celebrating characters, I’ll finish this with a message from Resonance herself:
Happy Fourth! Since tomorrow’s Independence Day, I’d like everyone who feels somehow trapped to declare their own mini day of independence. If you hate your job – leave it. If you think your style could do with a little liberating – do it. Take hold of your life and be yourself because there’s nothing worse than living in a free country and still being under the control of others.
In the U.S. we can do pretty much anything with our lives and no can stop us. So, why is it that we let ourselves be blended into one giant mass of sameness? Why do we feel pressured to conform? Why do we let our hairstyles and clothing choices be dictated by a handful of people scattered across the planet we’ve never even met?
In the spirit of independence, I want you to decide enough’s enough. For all the fathers who quit their dreams to support their kids; for all the women who ‘toned down’ their rebellious styles to get along better with the hoardes of soccer moms in their neighborhood; and for all the kids out there who are fucking sick and tired of wearing the same shit as everyone else, tomorrow is the day to take it all back.
Be different. Be yourself. Be free.
And don’t blame me if you get in trouble.