Idea or Character, which is most important?
Where do you find your ideas? As a writer I’m often asked this question, and the answer has to be -from life. Not necessarily from my own life, of course, although, it’s these experiences that shape my outlook on life, that help to create my beliefs. An idea can come from a news item, a chance remark overheard in a public place or even just by looking at someone and wondering about them and maybe imagining a life for them. Yes, ideas are all around us, just waiting to insinuate themselves into the mind.
Then come the characters. This is the thrilling part of writing – to create a character from the fabric of your own imagination, to give him(or her) a life, a personality, strengths and weaknesses; to mould him to whatever you want, good or bad, honest or truthful, cruel or caring. It’s all up to you! He/She can be pretty or ugly, dark or fair, short or tall, bitchy or sweet, manly or a wimp; it’s all up to you, your chance to play God! What power! It’s no wonder we writers become addicted to writing.
But the strange thing is that if you’ve created them well enough, your characters become real, and they end up dictating to you. They often take the story where they want to go. Forget your own pre-conceived ideas, if that’s what they want, you ignore them at your peril!
And often you find them intruding into your own life. They can make you feel guilty if you haven’t written about them for a while. I often find that one of my strongest characters, Kitty, who is the main character in An Independent Woman, the first book in the Redwoods series, forces herself onto my attention. When I conceived the idea for this series, I planned to write three books, each one written about the daughter in each generation, beginning in the late nineteenth century and finishing mid-twentieth century. I planned their stories to reflect the changing attitudes to women over those years, as women gradually gained more independence. But when I finished the first book there was no way Kitty was going to let me put her to bed. No, she still wanted to be #1. And so she is still a dominant character in the second book, A Liberated Woman, alongside her daughter Joy.
Now that I’m working on the third book n the series, I decided it was time to move on and leave her behind. But she doesn’t agree. She has even infiltrated my dreams. Believe it or not, I dreamed of her last night. I was standing outside a room with a closed door, and inside that room someone was hammering on the door. “Let me out, let me out,” a woman’s voice was calling through the door. “You can’t keep me locked up in here.” It was Kitty. Believe me!
So what am I to do? I suppose I’ll have to let her have her way, and put her in this book too!