I often get the question, “Are your characters based on real people?”
My answer is yes and no.
To answer the question properly, I need to tell you how I develop my characters.
When I see a person who does something, or says something that grabs my attention in a big way, I begin to make him/her into a story character. Of course, when I’m finished with my story character, he/she is no longer remotely close to the person who caught my attention in the first place. However, the substance of that person was the first building blocks for creating my story character, so I like to think that a part of my story character is real.
An alternative book cover for The Alkahest
Not all my story characters are created this way. Some are a conglomeration of traits gathered from many personality types to produce the right story character for the role.
I would never use a real person in my stories because real people are boring in fiction. Story characters must be many times exaggerated and then some. They must be grander than life. Having said that, story characters are more reasonable in what they say or do. They have to be for the reader to understand them. In real life, people do irrational things, and we don’t understand why. In fiction, the reader understands why story characters do the things they do. They need to for the story to make sense to them.
“The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.” – Tom Clancy
That is the great thing about fiction and one of the main reasons that I love to write fiction – it’s different than life, more exaggerated than life is and far more versatile. My characters can do so much more, be so much more, and change so much faster than in real life.
I read and write fiction to escape everyday life. Real life people have their moments, but in fiction, the story characters, by far, outshine reality in a grandiose way.
After I create my stories, I begin the mammoth task of researching; making sure that all the content in my story is correct and gaining material to expand on topics where I lacked the knowledge. I find research to be vital, adding authenticity and correctness to a story.
My Thoughtmover series needed an incredible amount of research that I had done on everything from types of landscapes, modes of transportation, suitable weapons, appropriate fashion, and the list goes on. I even researched the names of characters, places, and things in the story, to pick names that were fitting to their role.
For me, research is more than getting information from a book or retrieving it from the Internet–that I learned the hard way is not always correct–but to obtain the information from people who hold personal knowledge and experiences in that area, people who have ‘been there and done that’. Even in fantasy, content must be depicted as real and accurate as possible.
For The Alkahest, an area that required research was tall ships. Lacking personal nautical experience, I met up with a sailor, who was kind enough to share his experiences with me on tall ships, information that is not easily obtainable elsewhere. This type of personal information includes unique feelings and thoughts that arise on board and how the senses are touched by actions or events that occur on these ships.
I use this personal information to create conditions on a ship that allow the reader to feel as if they are riding aboard that ship, experiencing the life and challenges of the characters. I think a writer’s greatest accomplishment is when he or she can take their readers and put them into the world of the story, to travel with the characters on their journey.
Researching for my books is one of my favorite tasks in writing next to the creation of my stories. It has not only given me knowledge in areas where it lacked, but it has allowed me to meet wonderful and skilled people that have made my life richer and my stories better.
One of the questions I’m asked often is how I created my Thoughtmovers in the Alkahest.
The answer is, the way that I create all my stories – through my imagination. When people, places, or things grab my attention, I begin to build a world around them and when that world is fully developed, it becomes a story. See my interview, Path to Writing
The Alkahest - New Novel by Alandra CL
The idea for my Thoughtmovers was inspired in an elevator. I was riding to the top of a skyscraper when the elevator stopped to let in more passengers, and in stepped three, tall, and very charismatic men. Standing close to seven feet, with gorgeous bodies, and handsome faces, I thought to myself that it wasn’t fair that these men were so perfect. At that precise moment, they all three turned around and smiled at me. It was as if they had read my thoughts and were thanking me for the compliment, hence came the idea of a tall and telepathic race known as the Thoughtmovers.
From there, I expanded on the idea and created the World of Kaldanien, where these powerful Movers rule the people. I went on and created a culture for them by providing them a different belief system, placing them in a higher caste, and even changing them physically by making them far taller than their human brethren.
Map of Kaldanien from the fantasy novel, The Alkahest
Once the storyline and the setting were established, I began my character developments. I choose a heroine and created a life around her, a life touched with misery but also filled with dreams, love, and a strong purpose. I chose a hero whose ambition was to free the people from servitude and to try to find a loving mate, to share his life with and help him in his goal.
My hero and heroine were then plunged into danger, despair, and all sorts of dire circumstances where they would be forced to make life-altering decisions amidst trying to find each other. The story begins there with book one, The Alkahest, and the rest is history.
Every day, I’m exposed to people, places, and things that make an impression on me, setting me off to build more stories around them. Some make a stronger impression on me than others do and those are the ones dearest to my heart. The Thoughtmover series is one of those special stories.
I am one step closer to finishing my book, and it’s been an interesting and rewarding journey so far.
When I first became serious about publishing my fantasy novel, I realized that treating my writing as a hobby was not going to work. From that point on, I vowed that whatever I did or needed to do, it would get my total effort – I would treat my writing as a professional career.
The Alkahest - New Novel by Alandra CL
This professionalism extended not only into my creations, but also into my research, the time allotted to writing, my dedication, and most importantly, my attitude. Combining all these factors has turned a simple writing-for-pleasure into a writing career. Suddenly writing assignments began to come to me. They were not exactly, the type of writing that I dreamed of doing, but it was a means to an end, meaning, it allowed me to be published, to gain experience in the writing world, and to nurture the idea that writing was a serious occupation, not a hobby as I had so long felt it to be.
For a long time, I had asked myself when is a writer really a writer. When does one deserve to hold the title of a true writer?
I used to think it was when one had their first work published, but having had writing work published, I no longer feel that to be the case. I am certain there are good writers out there who have never had anything published. I believe that one is a writer when one possesses these two key ingredients: they treat their writing seriously, and they feel like a writer in their heart.
My road has been long. And while it may seem to others–from the outside looking in–that this is just a job like any other; for me, it has exploded into a passion that has taught me an incredible amount and has fuelled me to push harder and continue down that sometimes difficult road with no regrets, much optimism, and horrendous enjoyment.
In my opinion, the saying holds true that it is not the destination but the journey that brings more fulfillment, because a destination is fleeting whereas the journey is long and memorable.