“It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.” -William Faulkner
There are nights where I am absolutely exhausted from writing. I feel empowered by this feeling but I can’t deny that chasing characters around in your head all day can definitely tire you out. The conversations between characters that reside in my head are enough to make a person scream “Shhhhuuutttupp” but I’m a writer and it would be absolute blasphemy to want this momentum of character dialogue to end. Instead I insist that they carry on with their conversations as if I’m not even there. They’re hard to keep up with sometimes, believe me, so I’ve acquired an apt ability to type quickly. Although my fingers feel as though they’re out of breath after long-winded pages of character dialogue and development, I sometimes feel like I’m not even there writing it. It’s as if the characters are taking on a life of their own and I’m just a fly on the wall listening in. Sometimes this is how real my characters have become to me. You have to believe that your characters are real people. If you can’t believe in your characters then neither will your reader.
I tried to develop the main character as the opposite of who I am. I wanted to delve into all of her virtues and vices and make her interesting and unfamiliar as hell. I wanted to make her someone I had never met before and someone I would love to get well acquainted with. The more I tried, the more I realized she was becoming more like me. Perhaps I was fighting it. Perhaps I didn’t want my character to be like me because it’s a part of me I don’t want to share with people I’ve never met before. Then there is a part of me that says if I’m willing to write a story that is raw, honest and passionate I’ve got to wipe away my tears of hesitation and create the character my story deserves. After all, writers write what they know.
A challenge I encountered at the very beginning was whether I should make the main character male or female. I struggled with this because a male or female character would influence the type of story I wanted to write. After some exhausting consideration I decided that the main character needed to be a young woman. It made the most sense to me. Her name is Quinn and she is someone who discovers her strength through hardship. The character that accompanies her on her journey is a male character named Eliot who is her hero but a hero we should be weary of. He’s a villain masked by heroic qualities. They find each other despite their opposite views on existence and try to take particular qualities from each other in order to grow. Somewhere amidst the chaos in the world, in their world, they found each other. It’s as if fate had magically worked itself out, as it usually does bringing two lonely strangers to a place of belonging. They both have a common question in mind: what’s in a name? They both have a name that doesn’t quite fit them; a name that doesn’t quite define who they are.
Quinn is a young woman who comes to terms with understanding that there is nothing she can do to change the cruel world she was brought into and sees suburbia as this dead-end forbidden land which is swallowing up her dreams to be something more. Her only way out is to end her life. She sees this is as empowering because it’s the one and only thing she can control- taking her life. Quinn wonders about a lot of things. She wonders about all things wild and free. She wonders about a world where things are perfect and where people and things haven’t been touched by conflict. Eliot on the other hand is a boy born and raised in the city, a concrete jungle where only danger and deceit resonate. He feels the city is a forbidden place of temptation and must seek a place of refuge after getting into some trouble. He on the other hand wants to start his life over. They become a part of each other’s journeys in the hopes of finding a heaven only to find a hell. Eventually conflict and chaos become them.
I have a lot of work to do and I’m nowhere near done. I’m not even sure if I’m happy with the characters I’ve created but I know I will eventually find my way- err I mean I know they will eventually find their way. I once got asked: “What’s your story about? What are your characters like?” It’s a question I couldn’t answer. I’m not sure what this story will be about from beginning to end. I have an idea of what I want it to be about but it’s not a story that is bound to my expectations. I know that a story and its characters will change to fit the flow of ideas. A writer can’t control where new ideas will take them. They can only embrace them. I’m learning that this is the exciting part about writing. Your characters and your story are constantly evolving…unexpectedly.