Writing Life #2

book hangoverAs a regular feature, our authors periodically answer an interview question to provide a glimpse into the mysteries of their minds.

Is there one character type or specific setting element that you find yourself returning to over and over? Any ideas why?

Lee French:
I have a strange fondness for two types of characters. One is the healer, and the other is the cypher- or snippet-style* precognitive. The first is easy to explain. I began my role-playing life as a cleric in 1st edition Dungeons & Dragons. The primary purpose of clerics in any edition of D&D is to heal. That experience, which was positive enough that I’ve continued gaming and will continue until I’m too old to order someone to roll dice for me, gave me a fondness for the power of being the person that everyone has to placate to survive.

The second is more complex. I like the precog as a plot device, because it allows me to throw things in that make no sense until later. One can do this with any plot device, of course, but there’s something inherently strange and wonderful about it being impossible to understand until it’s too late, or nearly too late. When you put Chekov’s Gun in a story, everyone knows what will happen: someone or something is going to get shot. With a prophecy, who the heck knows what that crazy crap might mean.

Beyond that, precogs are creepy and raise all kinds of questions about the meaning of life and predestination and fate, which are tons of fun to explore. And then there’s matter of what that ability does to the precog–how it makes them behave, what beliefs they form, and how they cope when others find out and covet it. Precogs are fascinating people.

*By ‘cypher-style’ or ‘snippet-style’, I’m referring to precogs who only know bits and pieces, or who spew some kind of cryptic, rhyming nonsense, as opposed to the ones in The Minority Report that know exactly how everything will happen.


Connie J. Jasperson:
I am always fascinated by the hero’s journey. Joseph Campbell describe that in this way, “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

I am drawn to characters who are thrown into situations that force them to become more than they would have been had their lives continued down the easy path. They have to reach deep within themselves and find the courage to go on, and through that experience they learn what it means to live.

They are not always kind or good, and sometimes they do bad things, but there is always a moral to their story. Many times they find their superpower is compassion, something they may not have had in abundance at the outset of their journey.

Magic, myth, and the uncertainty of life shape my characters.

David P. Cantrell:
I’m so new at writing that I’m not sure I have enough “over and over” data points to answer this question intelligently, but that’s never stopped me in the past, why start now.

I like my female protagonist to be smart, self assured, competent and vulnerable. Vulnerable doesn’t mean swooning instantly if the male lead looks at her. It’s more likely she’ll swoon if he does something nice for a stranger. Gee, does that sound generic, like every romantic comedy you’ve ever seen at a theater? Well yeah, it is, but I want that kind conflict in my stories, even stories with serious issues. Romantic banter is fun to read and fun to write.

I find myself setting scenes around meals. Lunches with co-workers, a breakfast with a stranger, and moonlit dinners are all opportunities to develop characters or move the plot along. Many of us older folks think meal time has lost its importance in families, but I disagree. The fogies (you could substitute self-righteous defenders of past practices) base it on media and assumptions about the rapid pace of life. They assume everyone in the family is so wrapped up in their own endeavors that no one has the time, or the desire, to share their feelings and experiences over a meal. I don’t buy it. It may be pizza at 7:00 pm after a soccer game and dad is still at work, but meals stimulate sharing.



Author: Lee French

Lee French lives in Olympia, WA with two kids, two bicycles, and too much stuff. She is an avid gamer, casual bicyclist, and lackluster gardener. Most of her writing is done in a Beanbag of Comfort +4. Best known for her young adult urban fantasy series, SPIRIT KNIGHTS, Lee is an active member of SFWA, PNWA, and NIWA.

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