When I am writing, it sometimes feels as if the finish line is constantly moved just out of reach. Each question you ask yourself and your collaborator as you work on a character and or, situation, leads to another question which snowballs into new possibilities, that in turn lead to more questions.
The honest conversation you have with yourself about your characters has a domino effect, busy with one aspect of the graphic novel, only to be drawn back to something you have already worked on. Taking new issues into consideration and applying your conclusions to parts of the work you thought had been addressed and completed. While you are writing you need to consider exactly what the “truths” are that your characters are dealing with.
I started expanding on the character profiling and development of one of my favourite protagonists in the Chronicles Of The 2nd Dark Age, Pull Fastbladder. I had been thinking about Pull’s education and his relationship with his father. Daniel had been working on a series of panels for Tankertown featuring Pull, and we were debating aspects such as his weight, hair length and the strength of his chin.
While we were working on this, I was reminded of something I had not considered when writing about Inza, our main protagonist. The two characters exist a hundred years apart but the same dynamics and principles apply irrespective of time or place. Themes such as education, relationships, fears, and desires are universal and as such impact on the way a character reacts or behaves when faced with different situations.
In time language becomes bastardised and a new vernacular develops. You ask yourself in what way would the language have evolved, given the fact that the context is one in which the world, along with a great deal of its knowledge, has been destroyed and the survivors who are left behind have to make sense of things with only fragmented clues to guide them.
How would Inza’s education have transpired? How would the transfer of information have taken place in her tribe specifically? Probably through orated history and fragmented recall. So I introduced new characters to illustrate this point. A wise old grandmother on her father’s side, and an elder, a retired warrior Khapot who was assigned the role of mentor and provided her with weapons’ skill and training.
On the one hand, my protagonist needs to portray a certain aspect of the story, but the moment I consider internal and external factors, using guides I borrowed from Sigmund Freud’s Structural Model of the Psyche and Carl Jung’s Collective Unconscious, it changes or impacts on my character’s persona.
My one protagonist is a hero and worthy of notable inner strength but when I add his weaknesses it becomes difficult to balance his character and retain likability. My desire to project my own affinity towards the character overshadowed the truth.
You need to question yourself and ask if liking a character impedes on the telling of the tale. For example, the fear of having to ultimately kill him off to fulfil the conclusion of the story can feel like a betrayal.
Although frustrating, sometimes the interruption and distraction of intrusive thoughts can lead you down the road to immaculate discovery allowing for the deeper understanding of characters and cultural development.
The trick lies in maintaining a balance between explanation and contemplation. Not allowing yourself to go too far down the road and not so far that both you and your character lose sight of the plot entirely.
You need to understand when to draw the line and when you have reached the conclusion of the development, to let it go. Sometimes it is really difficult to reign in your creative dragon, but what a glorious ride it can be.
Author: Nanieve Groenewald