Two days at once
I managed to miss out posting on #9 yesterday, so I’ll just do it today and pretend I always intended to do it that way 😉
9. How do you get ideas for your characters? Describe the process of creating them.
It’s a process of accretion, very much like building up a stalactite or a pearl. I start off with an idea for a story: for example “I want to write something about Aztecs in Space.” OK, I think, what about the Aztecs in space? They need to have some kind of problem to solve, otherwise there’s no story. Maybe they’ve just met an alien race and they have to find out if the aliens are friendly, or if the gods want them to offer the alien’s hearts to them in order for the gods to be able to keep making new suns.
So I’ve got a setting and a problem, now I’ve got to have a hero. And he has to be in a job where the problem will be his problem, which he will have to go and solve. Now I’ll think about what would make for more complication in the plot – how about a hero who didn’t quite fit in with his superiors, had strange ideas and was likely to act in a way that no one expected? That could be fun. In the case of our Aztecs, I would make him a young priest with heretical leanings.
Now I’ve decided on his job and the problem he’ll have to handle, I give him a name. The name immediately starts to make me think of him as a real individual, as opposed to a cloud of possibilities. At this point I’ll probably look through a bunch of stock photos to find a face for him too, and once I’ve got one, that will act like the name and begin to make him coalesce. After that, I have to write him for a bit and let him react to things, figure out why he’s reacting in the way he does, and base his personality on that.
Short answer – the characters grow out of the story. Somewhere, about five chapters in, they stop growing out of the story, shake themselves separate from it, come alive and start telling me what they want to happen now. When that happens I smile, step back, and let them take over the problems they were made to solve.
10. What are some really weird situations your characters have been in? Everything from serious canon scenes to meme questions counts!
I don’t know! Calling something “weird” assumes we’re all agreed on what the definition of normal is. Ben in Under the Hill certainly thinks it’s weird to go hunting ghosts armed only with a super soaker full of holy water. But since I know he’s actually a reincarnation of a supernatural entity himself, and will soon be rescuing his sister, and his lover’s 150 year old ex from a time-stasis prison in another dimension, I kind of lose track of what’s weird and what isn’t.