Saturday, March 23, 2013

Guest Blog: Developing New and Interesting Characters

On today's blog we have Andy Washburn, co-author of the new book "Pitch Green." He's got some interesting thoughts on what it takes to bring a new character into the world.

Dissociative Identity Disorder
(Or Developing New and Interesting Characters)
By Andy Washburn
(Some personal thoughts)

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is the technical name for what we laymen refer to as a “split personality”.  It is a controversial diagnosis with some experts believing it is not real, or maybe even therapist induced.  (Isn’t Wikipedia wonderful?)  I bring this up, because I sometimes believe I may have a form of DID, though I have never seen a therapist.  (I was going to say, “Where is the fun of having a mental disorder if you get it fixed?” but then I worried that someone with a real mental disorder would be offended, and yes, I think that people with mental disorders are the most likely to be reading my stuff.  Whatever.)
When I’m writing, I sometimes believe that I have multiple personalities within me, all battling to get out, or at least take control of the writing process.  And, most of these personalities, wait, no, all of these personalities are younger than me; healthier than me; and without a doubt, thinner and better looking than me.  The sixteen year old personality is especially keen to take over.  He must not have caught a look of me in the mirror yet.
It is from these disparate and distinct personalities that I form the characters that I write about in my novels.  To some extent or another, everyone I write about, or maybe I should say, everyone I write for is deep down inside my id somewhere. (Damn, I am esoteric!)  So, when I write about different people I am really just writing about some part of myself.  I am the young, good looking, high school football star Cal; and I am also the middle aged, overweight, balding, mean and obnoxious Mr. Samuel. (Both characters from Pitch Green.)
In real life, I am not young or good looking, but neither am I mean or balding.  I’m only a little obnoxious.  But both of these characters are inside of me, and I only need to bring them out and put them in the story to write about them.  I am not writing about people I observe, though I love to observe other people.  I am writing about myself.  No matter how different or unique each character is from the others, I’m there.
Of course, this begs the question: “What about the female characters you write about?”  (My sons will all stop reading this right exactly at this point.)  If I were really cool, and politically correct, I would claim to have female personalities along with the male personalities.  But I am only cool, not politically correct, and no matter how deep you look inside of me, you will not find a woman, or even any woman-type being.  My wife will confirm this.
This does not mean I cannot write for the women I write about.  Women are people, (that sounds so patronizing) and we overlap enough as people that I don’t have a problem writing from a woman’s perspective.  That is, as long as I have women, like my wife and daughters, who read what I write and tell me when I have it wrong.
This means, analogous with the way I write for the guys, when I write for women, I am looking out of their eyes at the world that is being created for them.  So, if I’m not part woman, (and there are a few bullies from my high school days who would claim that I am), the women that I write about are part me.  (I told you I was esoteric.)
The way this works, evidently, is that the guys I write for are all looking out my eyes as I write for them, but as I write for the women, I am the one looking out of their eyes.  Weird, huh?  But, that is the way it works, and for me, it works pretty well.
Whether or not this means I have DID, I don’t know, though it is probably indicative of a need to at least go to therapy.  Yea, well, I’m still not going.  Why mess with all those extra personalities?  I need them when I’m developing new characters.  After all, that’s how I write.

Brief Joint Bio of the Brothers Washburn:
We are two of 9 sons (16 children total) who grew up in the Mojave Desert near Death Valley.  Our father was a dentist, who built up a practice in Trona, California, a small mining town.  While we were growing up, he was the only dentist in town.  As the good citizens of Trona mined the minerals of Searles Valley, Dad mined their teeth.
When, in turn, Andy and I went off to college, we left the desert and never looked backed.  We thought we were done with Trona forever, but couldn’t have been more wrong.  For about 35 years, I was a business lawyer working for international commercial finance companies in the mid-west.  For about 25 years, Andy was a trial practice lawyer working in Southern California.  We both have many years of formal writing experience.  While we have kept our law licenses current, we are now having fun writing fiction full time.
After we each moved to Colorado for different reasons, we talked for some time about starting a business together.  We have always been story tellers, first to our siblings, then to our own children, and now to our grandkids.  Scary stories are a family specialty.  A few years ago, I started writing a young adult science fiction series, so when Andy also tried his hand at writing fiction, it didn’t take long for us to come together as The Brothers Washburn on a young adult horror series. The tale is of course set in Trona, California, the perfect setting for a horror series.
The general outline for Pitch Green, the first book in our Dimensions in Death series, came together in November of 2010.  We were attending a writer’s seminar in Manhattan, listening to panel discussions by top literary agents during the day.  One night, as we rode the subway from one end-of-the-line stop across town to the opposite end-of-the-line stop, and then back again, we mapped out the basic elements we would need to expand a favorite childhood scary story into a full-length novel.  Andy wrote the first rough draft, and then, in our typical tag-team effort, I took that draft over to edit and expand the tale.  In the writing of the first book, the ground work was laid for both the sequels and prequels in that series.

1 comment:

  1. I typically consider that I've multiple personalities within me, all battling to get out, or at least take control of the writing process. And, most of those personalities, wait, no, all of those personalities are younger than me; healthier than me; and certainly, thinner and higher trying than me. The sixteen 12 months outdated character is particularly keen to take over. He should not have caught a glance of me in the mirror but.