Process of Writing: character inspiration

Well it’s another TGIF for me, this week has been…a week. A week of disrupted plans, but such is life. And good came out of it! I very nearly got in trouble by missing my day of jury duty…

Thankfully, when I checked I found that my group was on standby (major sigh of relief) and to check back, which I did. And I’m good to go. Awesome! Time served. On standby. Last time I did actually go to the court house, and got all the way to the jury selection. Many people dread jury duty, but for me I found it easier to see it as a learning experience. It reminded me of the old Odyssey episode Blind Justice–in fact I listened to Blind Justice in preparation for my day and I found it very helpful. And this week I was thinking of research and character inspiration. Have I talked about that already? I think I’ve done something on research and character development, I’m not sure I’ve touched on inspiration.

For me inspiration comes from life. From real people and real situations, or what I could imagine real people doing in potential situations–based on what I know about them, of course. And if I don’t know I make it up using what seems likely. Which is the same thing…

Anyway, my characters are often based on people I know. The word based is important for my friends, because sometimes the characters may do something they don’t like or would never do. So “based on” or “the idea of” are perhaps more accurate phrases. So in the case of Marianna, which I’ve finally made some headway on, I used an idea for…well for two characters I’m focusing on this week. I think I already mentioned how the new iteration Rachael was based off of the idea of someone I met at college. Kind of the more confident, more responsible, mature teenager. So for her character, I though she’s needs a friend. So I created Yi, who is actually based off of the idea of another person I interacted with during my health course.

Scene #4

(Later that day, Rachael and her friend Yi are just about finished training behind Three-hearts shop)

RACHAEL

That was awesome, Yi! You gotta show me those moves again.

YI

Okay! (she shows her)

RACHAEL

What? That’s not a move!

YI

That’s to get boys.

RACHAEL

The wrong kind of boys!

(They both laugh)

YI

So have you find what’s wrong with your mom?

RACHAEL

(sighs heavily) No. Not yet

YI

Maybe the doctor did it.

RACHAEL

What?

YI

You know, he have knowledge. He maybe pull something like that.

RACHAEL

Mm, I thought of that. But what’s his motive?

YI

What’s motif?

RACHAEL

Motive. A reason for doing that. You know most people have something to gain.

(Yi looks puzzled)

YI

Sorry, my English is not good.

RACHAEL

(Laughs) It’s not bad for four months of speaking it every day. Um, usually they get something for it.

YI

Get something…

RACHAEL

Yeah, like money. Our doctor is well paid, so there’s no reason… (sees Yi’s expression) He makes a lot of money.

YI

Oh, so he don’t need more money.

RACHAEL

And he doesn’t need power—he has more power than I have in the castle.

YI

I still think he screw her.

RACHAEL

(stifles a laugh in spite of herself)

YI

What? (innocently)

RACHAEL

Um…nothing.

YI

I know my English not that great. I maybe say bad word.

RACHAEL

No, no, it’s just that… (changes directions) …I know what you meant.

YI

What? (confused)

RACHAEL

Never mind. Just show me those moves again.

YI

Okay. So like this…

RACHAEL

Uh-huh

YI

…and then then you drop…No not like that! If you do that your head hit the ground. Big problem!

RACHAEL

(Laughs) Okay show me again.

Okay so Yi is Asian, as you might have guessed from her name, and there’s two ways to pronounce it as I’ve heard: “Ye” and “E”. I haven’t specified which country…and I don’t think I need to. There’s a certain style to leaving things open ended for the audience to do some creating of their own. Of course, I have my own ideas which determine how I shape the character, but I like leaving the rest up to the readers/listeners. Now I realize not all Asians are the stereotypical “immigrant” who have trouble with English; in fact many of them speak great American English (especially if they were born in the US) some actually speak English if they’re from England or Australia–some even speak Jamaican Patois if they’re from there. So please! I am not being racist. I did have the privilege of having a Asian roomate in college and experience his frustration, and his improving American English. And I like to think I learned a lot from him as well–for one thing I learned to simplify my sentences and use fewer metaphors. Each language has it’s specific metaphors, and once you learn the actual words then you have the challenge of learning what’s being said through implication, or exaggeration or whatever.

So I thought it would be cool to see that process play out in this story. Hopefully I nail it. I can’t actually have the audience sit for an actual year of improvements but I think, at the very least, I can have her English be almost perfect by the end. Or maybe perfect, we’ll see. Gradual things are kind of hard to get into–for me anyway. But that’s the plan and this has been my focus on one of the supporting characters for Pilgrim’s Progress 3: Marianna. Hope you guys have a great weekend!

-J

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