Friday, February 29, 2008

Cool Characters Transform

I’m most definitely one of those people that likes to sport one-liner t-shirts. You know the kind—I’ve Misplaced My Mind, That’s My Story and I’m Sticking to It, etc. And those kinds of statement’s represent what a character I am. I don’t fit a mold (some might say I’ve broken it with my hips), cause I never really fit anywhere. As a high schooler I was a jock, a nerd and artsy. Now at the office I have friends in four departments that span the gamut from lowly to upper class. So I still don’t really fit in anywhere to a T.

But I think those kinds of characters are the strongest. They can blend with anyone…yet have the variety to stand out when the need calls for them to rise up. I’ve realized that not only do my characters get second chances, they also tend to be this type of gal or guy.

As some of the other Star-Crossed members have said inspiration can come from anywhere. I know that I have ideas daily, but after being a writer for a while I’ve learned to weed out the good from the bad. Sometimes I do try to opt for the characters that fall outside the box, like a fast food mascot or quirky copy clerk (this used to be a job of mine).

Out of the brainstormed ideas, I try to ask the questions that matter to the characters…who were they, who are they, what do they want, and what will stop them from having it? Read on for some examples of how I got inspired, then grew my characters. :0)

My bf is a constant plethora of material. I have to give him kudos for giving me the mascot idea. He was telling me about watching the Chick-fil-A cow on one side of the street taunt Red from Red Robin when they were having a hiring fair. He said, “I kept waiting for them to start tussling in the parking lot.” Of course I went the romantic road and thought what if their feud had started in school, then ballooned in adulthood? Then I considered what could make them bridge that huge gap—a child? Of course, I knew that I couldn’t use these characters per se, so I dreamed up a couple stand-ins that have intriguing backgrounds. (Like a bluebird that imagines herself as a superhero so she can suit up and withstand daily ribbing by the opponent’s crass cronies.)

TV and movies are also a wellspring of ideas. No, I don’t lift them straight from the context, but sometimes a situation (definitely reality tv) makes me brainstorm instantaneously. I’m a huge fan of Dr. Phil (yes, I said it). So I loved the idea of having a therapist as a hero, though Kendron’s idea of love don’t exactly fly with the heroine who has lived through her parent's divorce and remarriage in PERFECTION NOT REQUIRED. My entire cast from JUST ONE LIFE came from tv heroes (including Adrian Paul) and a Victoria Secret catalogue granted me the perfect woman to play my heroine. Those sword wielders I've mentioned from TIES OF VALOR are courtesy of Conan and Red Sonja...with a sci-fi twist! I know the movies rank high in cheese factor now, but Arnold in his prime swinging that broadsword…need I say more?

I’m hooked on Project Runway and loved the “costumes” they did for the futuristic 2066 collection. It included a fabulous duster jacket and garden party dress. That’s where the “look” of BELIEVE IN ME started. (Kaida, one of the strongest women I’ve created, was inspired by a Nike ad for sportswear.) Jacqui’s job was inspired by a concert I attended where I saw an awesome lighting show. Since I needed Jacqui to have an edge, while still being artsy, I gave her a painful past. Overcoming that pushes her to strive to be the best…and therefore become a superhero that kicks butt (like the ones I read about as a teen). Rad, the hero, started as a Fabio wantabe and ended up rocking my world like Colossus…hard as steel with a soft touch who never lets his team down. As readers who’ve stopped by the blog in October know, I love Halloween, which is synonymous with costumes. One of the most energetic characters stemmed from a Halloween get-up. I instantly thought of Aphrodite, but didn’t want to traipse around clad in a toga (like college). So I pondered a modernizing idea and my matchmaker from GA was born. Of course one unstoppable force must have another to counterbalance, so I pitted her against an ex-NFL player. (Which meant I had to do some research on football!) Though they’re striving for the same award, their paths to get there are far different. She’s shy but trying to be outspoken to fulfill her mother's vision, and he’s a national icon who’s trying to fit in to a whole new world without the training wheels.

Transformation is the key to strong characters, because readers want to see them grow. They want to see a person they can identify with, then have those “cliché” characters blossom into what they imagine they could be. Bridging the gap between those two parallels is what makes creating characters fun…because the author’s imagination is the limit.

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As you might be able to tell, I love pictures as visuals. (Could it have something to do with being an Art major?) I covered one wall of my office (when I was a copy clerk) with pics of my JUST ONE LIFE cast. They instantly caught co-workers' attention and made them ask how I was using them. Plus while I was working my subconscious could be free to wander this way and that to test out turns in my plot.



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2 comments:

Savanna Kougar said...

I certainly relate to your fascinating, detailed explanation of finding your heroines and heroes.
I'm also one of those 'who don't fit in anywhere', never have -- but with eclectic friendships, and I've always enjoyed talking to and knowing people from all walks/cultures of life. Wonderful blog.

Skylar Masey said...

Thanks so much Savanna! I find other people fascinating, especially since some are so different than how they look :0)