Monday, September 1, 2014

Character Hijack!

Character Hijack! by Sue Perry

Sometimes a character overtakes an author. This is not new news, but I never expected it to happen to me.

I know I'm not alone in this: however much my books distort or transform reality, they always build on a foundation of personal experience. As far as I can tell, that foundation exists for all writers and I bet it's the reason that books - even the wildest fantasies - always teach us about people.

Now, my way of creating characters is probably not a universal strategy, but I'm sure I can't be the only author who proceeds as I do: I scatter my attitudes and feelings across multiple characters. In fact, I can go back to a book later, combine all the characters, and get a decent sense of the me who existed when the book was written, in all my contradictory glory. I don't do the scattering consciously but so far it has always happened, as it has in my latest novel, Nica of Los Angeles  the first book in the speculative detective series FRAMES.

Here's the wrinkle. Sure, I'm everywhere in all the characters, but my main character Nica has hijacked my writing. Of course she narrates the novel - that's her job. But she has also been writing my blog posts. My book reviews. And my work emails. This started midway through the first novel. I tried to shut her down during the hiatus between volumes, with limited success. Now that I'm deep into the writing of book two in the series, I feel compelled to channel Nica, because it keeps me in touch with my narrator. But I miss having a separate identity and I wish she'd stop making waves that I get stuck riding.

Or do I? I confess I wouldn't mind being more like Nica. She's a lot more flexible and adventurous. We're both smartasses, but somehow she's funnier. She acts fearlessly, regardless of how afraid she might be. She's innately upbeat and optimistic, despite a slew of personal tragedies and the very noir world she inhabits. Perhaps I should just be grateful that I haven't been visited by her nemeses, Warty Sebaceous Cysts. And relieved to know that Nica can't take over completely, because she's not a writer.

As currently envisioned, Nica of Los Angeles is the first of four novels. I guess I'd better come up with some additional FRAMES story lines, in case Nica never goes away.

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