Just Characters In A Story

Requiem Angel - what's her story?I like to write.

You probably already gathered that if you’ve hung around The Paul Gillespie Experience for any period of time.  I don’t necessarily have to have a topic in mind when I start – just throw me a word, a phrase, a conversation, a situation or whatever and I’ll go from there.  Witness: pretty much any post here on the blog.

Besides this blog I have several others I pen (or am part of, at least).  I also like to write short stories, although admittedly getting them across the finish line is a little bit of a challenge for me these days.  I’ve learned writing is a full-time endeavor (even if you do it part-time), and between time with my friends, kids, work and beach volleyball I just haven’t made it a priority.

Right now I’m in the middle of a handful of short stories of various natures; sometimes those moments hit when you say “you know what? that would make an AWESOME story!” and thus a seed is planted.

But I digress.  (which is another reason I haven’t finished some of my stories – I might be a fan of shiny squirrels)


One of the things I like most about writing fiction, specifically, is being able to take real-life and inject my own imagination in it, turning things from “the way they are” to “the way they should be”.  I get to mold life the way it ought to have happened/be happening.  I get to make zombies real (tastefully, I might add; no B-flick writing here); I get to bring orcs, sad angels and elves to life (although this one is really stalled at the moment) and I get to turn an everyday person into an accidental hero (this one is battling for time with the first one on the list).  I get to star in them if I so choose; I can model my characters after people I know; I can even make them out of thin air.

Since I can’t draw to save my life (have you seen my stick figures?  They look like firewood.) my creative outlet becomes my writing.  The beautiful thing about writing, though, is I don’t have to limit my creativity to one particular canvas – I have every single reader’s mind as an individual canvas.  I can describe a scene to whatever level of depth I want to and let the reader take it from there.  Before you scroll down any further let me describe a scene to you and you tell me what you see in your mind’s eye:

The waves rippled across the clear, untainted water, lapping quietly against the rocky shores as clouds rolled in to give the town of Cyphera a respite from the summer’s sun.  Perched on the side of the sheer cliffs on the lake of Tyggar the town was an engineering marvel – tall, cylindrical buildings overlooking the lighthouse on the island and, further on, the gently rolling hills of rest of the Eastern Kingdom.

The approaching rain clouds mirrored the hunter’s sadness as he looked across the lake.  Remnants of the old temple lay strewn across the rocks, dumped and forgotten when the marvels of man’s hand became more intriguing than the beauty of the creation all around them.   

Railla Karnokailen - what's her story?

Now scroll down to the bottom of the post (but promise you’ll come back) and tell me if you pictured that particular scene or not.  I’m going to say the answer is “not a chance” – I seriously doubt there are two people in the entire world who would picture a scene like that the same way, especially given a four-sentence excerpt with absolutely no context.  But the awesome thing is THAT IS AWESOME.  It means your readers have a different experience from each other, and much like you get to bend reality to the way you want it they get to visualize it with their particular filters and biases in place.

The same thing does with characters.  If you had only a few sentences to describe the heroine on the left how would you do it?  What features would you focus on?  What story would you build for her?  Who is she?  And when you put that down in words and pass it on to others you get to use all the combined creativity of both of you to bring her to life.

That, of course, comes with a responsibility – you can’t just vomit words on the page and expect people to enjoy your work.  This isn’t “art nuveau” after all (sorry – couldn’t resist a jab).  You have to picture your story in your mind as you write…and then revise it.  Tweak it.  Challenge yourself to build it better.

Anyway I got way off on a semi-tangent here.  I really don’t remember what fueled me to write this post, but now that I’m done I’m pretty sure what you’re reading had absolutely nothing to do with that spark.  But that’s fine – The Paul Gillespie Experience is really just a personal place to dump by brain when the mood hits me, not an attempt to hit #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list.

You don't see this every day...

Side note: if anyone has any recommendations on places (preferably online, but KC-area is fine, too) I can learn to draw please let me know – that’s one of those things I’ve always wanted to do.

(Requiem Angel courtesy of Eric Deschamps; Cliff Castle image courtesy of WallpaperHi.com; Railla Karnokailen courtesy of Tomasz Jedruszek)

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