Being inspired is tough business sometimes. The same can be said for being candid without being overly candid and inserting too much of yourself into your characters. For those of you that know me, you’ll probably see some of me in the characters that I write. The truth of the matter is that it is nearly impossible to formulate a character as a writer without trying to insert yourself into said character. Part of what I prided myself with in The Godslayer was how little of myself that I put into Alek Turner.
I served my time training in martial arts and at one point was fascinated in them beyond the realm of just being a spectator or an “expert,” but instead wanted to be a part of that world fully. Even so, things never went beyond a cursory level of exploration and I’ve never been a champion martial artist. I’ve known a few and studied enough of them to be able to piece together Alek Turner, but a lot of the blanks had to be filled in to make him a living, breathing person. As much as I like to think that he was so far away from myself, he wasn’t entirely. There were small things, personality traits and opinions that came directly from myself and my experiences.
That is what I bring to the table, though. I bring to the table my experiences, thoughts and opinions. I try to do so in a way that doesn’t directly interfere with the characters that I’m writing or to hinder them. Some of my favorite authors are fallible individuals who were so connected with their characters that eventually they all started to feel the same, the stories taking the same turns and featuring the same tropes. In a way it is endearing, in another way it is frustrating. I’m not talking about dime store hacks, either, I’m talking about Haruki Murakami, Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov and many others.
These were heavyweights, the kinds of writers that I look up to and will probably never achieve the same level of success as, but I can see the flaws in their work as plain as day. That isn’t to say that my own work isn’t flawed, because it is. It’s just humanizing to see that great writers all have their flaws, all have their focuses and that sometimes it isn’t a big deal to fall into these tropes and pour too much of yourself into characters. It makes the most sense because as fascinating as a writer finds a person on the street met in passing and wants to inhabit their mind, that writer’s life experiences are going to start filling in the blanks. The more blanks, the more of the writer weasels its way into the character.
In my upcoming book there are two main characters; Jonah Freeman and Captain Peter O’Neil and while they couldn’t be more different, they also couldn’t be more alike in some ways. One had to claw his way through bureaucracy and overcome the odds to achieve what he wanted, while one was born into a position of great power, but neither are happy. A large part of the novel is the idea of showing both sides of the coin; that being poor and hungry is different from being rich and powerful, but that personality and outlook have more to do with how each condition is viewed.
I’ve written stories in the past that sampled heavily from myself, like most writers do, but they usually lack the kind of intimate personal details that I lent to some of the characters in this book. Some of it is very painful to express, but felt valuable enough to get out there. It’s also part of the reason why I get so nervous about this book and why my stress levels have been through the roof. There is a lot of me in this book and I’m not sure how else you can make a big gamble than to toss that much of yourself into something.
So as I enter 2015 with the goal of publishing two novels I look forward to the end of this week where I’ll finally ship off this novel to my lovely editor and start preparing everything for release. This should be an interesting year.
Happy New Year.