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Saturday, May 10, 2008

A character is born

Surfing today, I came across an interesting interview with sci-fi writer Lee Stephens (whom I've never read), author of the Epic Universe series. In the interview, host blogger Peter Hodges asks Stephens about his writing methodology and what advice he had to offer. Later, in the comments section, Stephens elaborates about how a certain character in his mythology came about:

Concerning inspiration besting preparation…in my own writing experience, I can think of no better example than the character Esther Brooking from Epic. I know you haven’t read the series yet, so you have no idea who she is - it won’t matter for this. Here’s her -very- abbreviated story…it has spoilers, but they’re minimal to the point of no consequence. This shouldn’t hurt anyone who is going to read the book.

I had plans to introduce a new character into ‘Outlaw Trigger’, a female soldier by the name of Lisa Tiffin. To be honest, I just wanted a change of pace. There were enough male soldiers about, and I wanted a girl to have some fun with some guns. So I created Lisa, a simple white soldier from the U.S.A.

One day, as I was out and about in the real world, I happened to lock eyes with a girl for a very brief moment. She was a young, attractive black woman, but it was the look she gave me that truly stood out. To put it nicely, she looked like she’d had a very bad day and her eyes were taking it out on me. As is often the case, Epic had been on my mind (it always is). Right then, an interesting character template struck me: a woman who knows she’s something special, but on the inside has a bit of a “jealous / posh” streak. Immediately, Lisa Tiffin was being recreated in my mind.

She went from white to black, for no reason other than it happened to be a black girl who’d sparked the inspiration. Being as few can pull off proper posh like a Brit, she became a native of Cambridge. To justify her awareness of self-ability, she was upgraded from soldier to scout (the special forces of my series’ military). Lastly, the name Lisa Tiffin was changed. Esther Brooking (Brooking being a British surname) was born in her stead.

That entire process took a moment’s glance, and about thirty seconds of impromptu brainstorming. All because I locked eyes with a stranger for a mere second. Esther has become one of my favorite characters in the series, because she is 100% inspiration. She is a total joy to write, and has more depth than I had ever originally intended.

Inspiration over preparation.

Which goes to prove that one should make a point of giving folks an evil look whenever one can b/c who knows, you just may be inspiring a new character. OK, just kidding, but it's interesting where inspiration comes from. Still, I've got my 'mean face' ready, just in case.

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Sharon Cullars Coffee Talk at 5/10/2008 12:59:00 PM Permanent Link     | | Home


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