Thursday, May 19, 2011

Guest Blog with Janet Fox on Characters

 Today I am incredibly honored to welcome Janet Fox, author of the Faithful series, to speak on her characters and how they live and breath for her. 

Janet Fox, Author of Faithful and Forgiven
My second YA novel, Forgiven, follows the path of Kula, who is a secondary character in my first YA, Faithful. All my work begins with character, so I thought it might be fun to talk about that aspect of my writing.

 When I start to work on a new project, the idea of it – the germ, seed, inspiration, what-have-you – that idea can come from the most random of places. For example, I was involved in a relaxing conversation over dinner with friends not long ago when someone mentioned something they’d read about what’ll happen when Earth goes to pieces, and the next thing I knew I was jotting down notes (fyi: upcoming dystopian YA set in space.) But once the idea forms, the next thing I have to discover is my main character.

 Usually I hear her voice in my head. She starts by telling me how she feels, what she wants. I hear her voice in its entirety – her accent, slang, mannerisms. (Yup. I hear voices in my head.) And that’s how it starts: the seed is planted, and then the character begins to live in that garden, to make it her own, to take charge of it.
That’s what happened with Kula and Forgiven. I’d known for a long time that I wanted to write about the great earthquake of 1906 in San Francisco. But I didn’t know I’d make it Kula’s story until I was halfway through Faithful. Kula’s character came out of nowhere. One minute I was writing a scene about Maggie and the next thing I knew this obnoxious girl barged in, wrinkling Maggie’s clothes and trying to steal Maggie’s limelight. I had to suppress her by promising myself, and her, that some day I’d devote a story to her.

 She was so insistent about getting out there that I wrote her story in record time – about six months. She’s tough and feisty with a huge chip on her shoulder. If she was around today, I bet she’d be sporting piercings and tattoos. She’s absolutely nothing like me, which made it easier for me to hear her speak: her language use and sharp tongue are so different from mine. I love Kula like I love a friend who is my opposite and who can throw up a mirror to show me my own flaws.

Janet Fox at Ol' Faithful
 And there’s the heart of the matter. I must love my character in order to write him or her out. I must love her with a passion, be willing to bleed for her, because a lot of writing is bleeding onto the page, putting your true self out there, opening a vein. I must be willing to die for that character. Conversely, I must be willing to put her through hell and to let her suffer, because (as any parent will tell you) it’s only by first-hand experience that we learn, and every good character must learn and grow during the course of a novel.

 Kula is very much alive for me. I hope that when you read her story, you’ll find that she lives for you, too.

1 comment:

Katelyn said...

This is an absolutely wonderful guest post. I am so excited to hear Kula's story. She played a small part in Faitful but you could just tell that she would be something special. It really is awesome to hear that your characters mean so much to you.