Happy Birthday To My Fictional Characters
This morning my sister sent me a text–“I wonder if you know the day Kip was born on.” I promptly sent her a copy of my Aeon Timeline, a timeline development software program compatible with Scrivener, the novel writing software, showing his pre-book life history and that of most every other character I’ve invented. But she wrote back, “No, the day he got into your head.” It was April 2, 2014 when the domain name was registered.
Let me explain.
I had the idea to finally begin writing a major work in March of 2013. Since then, it’s been a high priority among work projects and being a dad. I’ve now written more than 54,000 words in what Scrivener project’s is going to be a 94,700-word manuscript when Draft One is completed. In the process, I’ve gone through at least 1,000 4″x6″ notecards, which are all in various stages and stacks around the house. I’ve used Scrivener, which is a pretty powerful organizing tool, I’ve read dozens of books on “how to, how not to” and then I’ve really settled on some key guides–Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey, Eric Edson’s The Story Solution, and Robert McKee’s Story.
There have been other works along the way that deserve mention–Brian McDonald’s Invisible Ink, Sally Hogshead’s Fascinate, Jonathan Gottschall’s The Storytelling Animal and Carol Pearson’s Awakening The Heroes Within. This weekend I devoured Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering and did some serious thinking about Concept and Theme enhancements that I’d not as deliberately developed using Vogler. (My Kindle is loaded with other books about writing, but none of them compare to this core group or the other titles pictured to the right. You might also notice, I didn’t skim these books–there are color tabs hanging out of many of them for quick reference.)
Character Name Generation
But it was a year ago, April 2, that I used Scrivener’s Name Generator to search for the right names to suit the characters I’d determined I needed for the story I want to tell. When I found a name I liked, I purposely went to Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, LinkedIn, WhoIs.net and Google to see what came up for that name. If I could not register the character’s domain name, get them an account on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, the name was tossed. If something came up in Google or in Amazon it was discarded. That was the last test. When a name had cleared those six hurdles, they were allowed to become real–at least in my mind and my writings for now.
My book may not ever get published. I am not planning for that contingent, but moving forward positively. When it is published, my character’s names are already commercially protected. I own them and I’ve established use of them by locking down accounts for them in Social Media, which will be critical for commercial marketing when the time comes.
So, sadly, I missed April 2, 2015 as the day they came into existence. But in the year and five days that have passed, they’ve taken on lives of their own. I have a two-inch thick binder of Myers-Briggs profiles on all of them (Read David Keirsey’s Please Understand Me II). I’ve done the Color Quiz. I’ve created a chart where I’ve taken the Hero’s Journey and applied Pamela Jane Smith’ eight Inner Drives chakras to each character and where I think they’re going to be during each of the 12 phases of the book. And like I said, over the past weekend, I took Larry Brooks’ “What If” exercise to new levels for my characters, really pushing to get to the drama that needs to be included to make my work as intriguing as I know how to make it.
They are nothing but names to you, for now. For me, they’re crowding my head with work, family and wonder. During the day, whether I’m sitting at my desk or a lonely table in Jason’s Deli–I do wonders sitting in a public cafe with all the noise and chaos around me, not there to eat, but just to be in an active atmosphere–I write about ups, downs, challenges, inner demons, ways to cause havoc in the world by hacking into places that are impenetrable and blowing things up, ways to fall in love, and ways to save the world.
My characters hurt, they find joy, mystery, and anguish. They sometimes are very sacral chakras centered and only care about sex, money and power, and others, even the same ones, at other times, are in the heart center, focused on the good for all mankind. And while they float the range of chakras, apparently, I do, too.
So I say Happy Birthday to Kip Rippin–Kip, a name I found by accident, means a “unit of force.” I’m writing a thriller. He’s going to need some units of force to survive and save us all. Maycee Vincent is into honey potting–she is from Menlo Park, CA, and works in a quasi-governmental Internet monitoring operation between Stanford and the NSA. (And yes, Maycee is also the name of my 11-month old Great Pyrenees.)
Colin Mistry is my villain, working for President Oliver B. Carr, and my Mr. Big Bad Guy, corporate America businessman, Josh Chi Dormin. (Spell Dormin’s name backwards and think of what he might want to do–this time with a computer.) (“Chi” coincidentally, is an “energy force.”) Purely by accident, I pitted a “unit of force” against an “energy force.”
It was one of those forces of wonder that comes from creativity. It’s perfect. It spells one thing–CONFLICT. My other secondary characters include Zach Woodhall and Gwinn Bolynn–her parents were “Yoopers” in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Gwinn is a small town near Marquette where I lived several times thanks to the USAF.
It’s been a fun year with my characters. “A year?” you fellow writers might say, “That’s a long time.”
I thought that, too, this time last year. I thought I’d be finished with all of this. Chasing publishers and agents. But to make a book as close to right as possible, this is not something one goes and does on a weekend and comes back from the mount with it all on a tablet.
Amazon is filling up with those kinds of self-published half-baked, unedited books, full of typos and plot holes a semi-trailer truck would get stuck in.
For me, patience and discipline is so important now. I’m not saying it’s easy. Like an aging wine. It has to ferment, the tastes blend and become something more than it was when it was first poured into a bottle. It’s like preparing for life. You’re not ready for a massive journey into a special world any more than you can decide one day you’re going to go walk the 2,600-mile Pacific Crest Trail on Friday and be back in six months.
Happy Birthday, again, to my characters.
If you’re on a similar journey, I hope you can take the time to let your characters grow as mine have. You’ll find they have much more to them as characters if you do.