Friday, September 23, 2011

Ideas, Inspiration and Insidious Little Voices

I’m really not sure I’ve ever been asked that most infamous of questions, actually – where do you get your ideas? Which is likely as not all for the best, because like ninety-nine percent of other authors in the world I honestly have no bloody clue. I mean, if you read my entry from the other day about the meaning behind my short story The Journey of the Magi I list influences and inspirations from Lovecraft to Ikuhara to Eliot to She Wants Revenge, but they still don’t write the story. I do. But then again, when I was about fifteen or so and furiously writing very bad fanfiction on a regular basis, I came across the word “amanuensis” and was rather charmed by the mental image it generated.

I’m a glorified secretary.

Every writer is different, I think. They “hear” the story and the characters within in different ways. Personally I really am a secretary; my characters chatter away in the back of my head while I run the office in the front, and often they come and pore over my pages, hang over my shoulder, or hold a Sword of Damocles over my head until I do what they want me to do. Which, funnily enough, is not something often in my control. Partially it’s because I’m not really a planner – I have characters stroll into my head, I write, and somewhere somehow sometimes a plot shows up to make the whole exercise at least somewhat legit – but really, I can start writing a story and have it go to hell in roughly four point six paragraphs. Different characters are more or less likely to cause this problem. Examples, much?

This is Sard. I didn’t create him myself, he’s part of a shared fanfiction universe I worked in while in the late years of high school. Unfortunately I’m no longer in contact with my co-author, which really is something I still regret, but that’s not a story for today. But I bring him up because for whatever reason this man really crawled into my head and then promptly insisted on hating my guts.

He was a particularly wilful character to write, mostly because despite being the second-in-command of a much nicer man he was very devoted to, Sard took no shit. From anyone. I particularly remember the day when he was dead that he decided death just wasn’t for him anymore and took over the body of the spiritually-sensitive protagonist. And my co-writer, who hadn't seen this coming any more than I had, promptly wrote back: WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED HERE?! …AND WHY THE HELL DO I LOVE IT SO MUCH?! Very ironic, when you take into consideration she had a very Conan Doyle-esque attitude towards Sard and actually kind of hated his guts. With that said, although I haven’t written him in years (and to the best of my knowledge she hasn’t either, though she has every right to), towards the beginning of the year an artist on DA messaged me through livejournal to say she’d been through a nostalgic art phase and this was one of the results:

Apparently, much like the Hector my tour group and I found the shadow of in Troy earlier this month, THE LEGEND LIVES ON.

So, Sard, he’s a difficult character. And many of my characters are opinionated, too; actually, Sard’s reminded me of another character from that same universe, this time one of my own creation (with that said, because of the way we wrote, all the characters became shared characters, regardless of who actually created them; it’s probably the main reason that even when the urge strikes, as it very occasionally does, I can’t bring myself to even write a drabble with any of them). Her name is Coral. Coral’s…a very brash and sarcastic woman, and was never intended to be a major player. Basically I had a character up and die on me and I needed a pathologist, and Coral sees dead people. Both in her morgue, and in her head. She’s hardly as cute as a tiny Haley Joel Osmont, mind you.

She's CUTER.

But Coral actually shares a lot of things in common with one of my other very opinionated characters, one Dr. Viola Morgan. I’m sure the two would get on like a house on fire, though I couldn’t be sure. They’re superficially similar, as I said, but I think under their bored and brash exteriors they’re quite different women. Hmm. With that said, Coral has this problem with ghosts, and this is her standard day in a nutshell:

And really, that’s how I feel some days when I am trying to write.

So, one of my major problems in writing is not even when I do have a clear idea for a story, it rarely happens that way. I’m working on a novel called Greywater just right now, and not only are the two lead characters based upon two very stereotypical cardboard cutouts used as supporting struts in my thirteen-year-old self’s epic opus The Pool of Reflection, the story’s focus and theme has changed that many times I can’t even remember where it started. Again, it’s because I start with characters and let them do stuff, which considering the characters…not always for the best. Otho, the male lead, is the “noble soldier” with a “crisis of conscience;” Círa is the “yandere female” with the “mysterious past, present and future” and…well, other characters came wandering in when they perceived gaps in the story that they could wrestle to their own shape, and good lord where does it all end?

Fortunately for me, even though I am less than generous with the happy endings when it comes to these characters, both Otho and Círa are quite co-operative with me. But not each other. We can only have so much maturity, here. Actually, in Greywater there’s only one character who isn’t easily corralled to my will: Ryennkar Vassidenel. And that’s not so unusual, as he has a basic worldview very similar to Sard’s – which is basically: “You suck. All of you. …well, not you,” and that one you is all they devote their not inconsiderable capacity to love to. Which is why they are so scary. Love is a powerful force, and giving that energy and force to one person, focusing it upon their health and happiness alone…oh, it’s scary. Love ought to be shared, spread around. If you can only love one person, both you and that person are pretty damned screwed, in my opinion.

Still. There's some cute to go with that obsession...right?

But yes, I have a messed up relationship with the little voices in my head. But it’s the only way I get interesting stories to write out; they sit in the back of my head and argue and bitch and laugh and love and live, and most days I am so very happy to be allowed to act as secretary for those stories.

Other days, not so much.

I keep thinking that one of these days I need to commission a drawing of myself with a couple of my characters. I had a sketch through yesterday for a picture of Círa and Otho by the star-river in the cove near Greywater, and she’s actually holding onto him like an anchor and it’s so damned lovely…and even though I was thinking of getting to the end of Greywater and having a picture done with them, I now rather think I ought to leave them to each other. Hee. I’m actually leaning towards Arosek and Ryenn, rather. Arosek loves me. …this isn’t saying much, Arosek loves everyone. But Ryenn…oh, it would be like the most awkward of family portraits. Arosek all chirpy, me half-terrified, and Ryenn rolling his eyes to the sky and saying: “If it’s you, then I suppose I can stand still for sixty seconds and not attempt to throttle that woman.”

…oh, dear, I think he dislikes me more than I realised. O_o And he’s a voice inside my head! So much for the great escape? Not that I’m going anywhere, mind you. I’m just having far too much fun indeed. <3

Note: For all the art in this post that isn’t mine – and thankfully, some of it isn’t…we have to keep standards up somehow! – more of their work can be seen through these links: Lianne, Frosted Blossom and JustineDarkChylde.


  1. Cool art! I've often wondered if learning to draw people would aid me when I get stuck writing - perhaps if I could draw the character first, I could gain some insight :-)

    Welcome to the Rule Of Three Blogfest, looking forward to getting to know you.

  2. Hiya! Not all the art is mine, unfortunately; mostly mine is just the abusive stuff. Ha. ...good lord, that sounds awful. XD But I used to draw a lot more than I do now, and though I don't have a lot of time or talent enough to do much these days, I love commissioning people to draw my characters for me. Although I don't have a lot of talent for either art or music both inspire me *so much* while writing, so I'm always up for making mixes and having drawings done.

    And I'm looking forward to the blogfest -- good to meet you, too! :D