I’m at a convention and likely being run ragged right now, so I’ve scheduled a few guest posts this weekend. This is the first one.
Hello everyone! I realize this is my first time here (thank you for inviting me, Luther) though those of you familiar with Sourcerer and Part Time Monster might know me and remember me writing about Star Wars, gender representations and assorted topics.
My name is Natacha Guyot and I am a French author, scholar and public speaker. I am passionate about Science Fiction, Fantasy, Transmedia, Gender Studies, Children Media and Fan Studies.
After releasing several works of nonfiction, I returned to my fiction love and recently released Clairvoyance Chronicles Volume One, a Fantasy collection of ten (connected) short stories:
Old enemies never truly disappear. When they return, peace becomes fragile and clans are on the brink of destruction.
Were Saber-toothed Cat Neyla relives her real-life nightmares upon Keno’s reappearance. Her longtime nemesis is scheming to overthrow the supernatural society. With Keno’s followers growing each day, Fae, Weres, Shifters and others with special gifts, are at risk.
In these dark times, everyone must join ranks and keep faith in a better tomorrow.
Unfortunately, the price may be high.
This made me reflect on something I had already realized but that hit me quite hard when working on Clairvoyance. As much as a writer can make their story work, if it wishes to comply and behave, they don’t really create their characters. Those little monsters just barge in without a warning. The best part is that it is how you get an organic story. Of course, you wrestle a lot with them and sometimes there is no way to make them go your way, but most of the time, they have better ideas than you (at least the raw version).
While I have loved creating stories and universes since I was a child, including novellas and novels in my late teens and early twenties, my roleplaying experience on a Star Wars board since 2008 has helped me a lot when it comes to just let the characters come to me, steal the show and make me take notes. Sometimes, I wish fewer characters would just appear out of the blue or that they would take turns and be a little more patient with me. Yet, I have come a long way as an author because of all I learned about crafting and storytelling, and having much more exstensive material to work with thanks to the countless characters showing up (and sometimes – often? – switching universes if they realize they’re not a good fit for a given one) had a significant role to play.
When I started working on the Clairvoyance universe, I thought it would be a couple of novels with a specific protagonist. Then, as I developed the history and the different groups, there were tons of voices that wanted to be heard. And they all made sense. I couldn’t just relegate most of them to supporting characters. They had to be heard, whether because they directly served the main arc of the story or because they brought solid insight into the overall experiences of all of these supernatural characters.
This is how the idea of doing several short stories with a different narrator each came to life. While I am hoping to introduce new narrators in future installments, I know some will return. It has given me so much more to work with and listening to all the voices in my head helped me establish the main arc with more justness. While diversity is important to me as a person and a writer, I didn’t sit down to come up with characters from a vast span of backgrounds, species, age, gender, orientation. They happened; and God were they loud.
One of my favorite parts about the loudness of my characters, even when they irk me to no end, is that it often allows them to reveal their annoying side. What does their annoying side bring? It brings flaws, which will give them credibility if you listen to your characters. I’m not interested in writing long-term immature characters, but I am not into perfection either. I want layers; I want contradictions, struggle, laughter, tears. I want life in my characters.
While I draw certain lines about what I will write (like I will not go beyond PG-13 rating as a personal choice), I let the characters rather free, before tidying behind them. Most of the narrators in Clairvoyance’s first volume didn’t even exist in the original story idea, and I couldn’t imagine the universe without them now. Some also emerged in the story as non-narrators and I can’t wait for the next volume(s) so they can tell their own stories as well, especially Roxane and Jo, who appear in several stories.
What about you, readers and/or writers? How important are characters for you? Do you like more story driven or character driven narratives? Do you enjoy watching characters evolve over a long period of time?