I asked Matt.....
Where do you get the inspiration for the characters in your stories?
For every artist, regardless of their chosen form, inspiration comes in many different strides. Some take it from past experiences, other’s from the silent beauty of the person that passes them on the street. Creating a history and characterization they feel suits them. For some, they simply close their eyes and recreate what they see. For me, it’s a little bit of everything, but mostly it’s just a product of my imagination.
When I started Exiled, I wrote the story as though it were me. I’d never written anything before and that seemed the easiest place to start. I placed myself into a different life. A life where monsters really were hiding in the shadows, and they really were out to get you. After a few chapters however, I had to go back and rewrite a lot of it to reflect who Chase truly was. The voice that he had become wasn’t my own. Somewhere, within a few dozen pages, he took on a life of his own and the Chase I started with was no longer. He wasn’t me, he was somebody new. Sure he still had some of my traits, but that was just a foundation.
Chase was a character who never thought twice about anything. He wasn’t the “act now, ask questions later character.” He was the “act now, skip the questions, deal with the repercussions when they came up” character. He’s grown so much since then, but when I look back at who he was in Exiled, and who he is now, I see that even after a rewrite, he was just a magnified version of my younger self. He was the one and only character created like that.
Rayna always existed. I didn’t put a lot of thought into who she was, or how she’d react to Chase. Chase needed someone who could push him; a character that could challenge him unlike any other. Rayna was that person. She was just there, waiting to play her part.
I thought Willy was perfect. I needed a character whose flaws were more easily seen than the other characters. What Chase buried inside, Willy wore on his sleeve – insecurity. We all have it, Willy’s is just more pronounced than others. Just like Rayna, he appeared in the story. I didn’t know who was following Chase down the street, I just knew it was the next character in the story, and he would play a vital part.
My main goal when creating a character is to make sure they aren’t perfect. I want them to be flawed. That’s the only real thought they get from me. I love flawed characters. They’re the ones I want to route for, and watch –hopefully- become victorious in the end. At the very least, I’d rather see a flawed character try and fail, then a perfect character succeed.
When I create a character, I don’t think about it. I don’t sit down and write character outlines or backstories. I take the story I’ve started, and as a character needs to be introduced, they are. I throw them in, sink or swim, and see what happens. What better way to get a natural reaction than to watch them react for the first time? I get to see their true face, because at first, that’s all that character has to offer. In the moment they’re introduced, I know nothing about them, but their reaction tells me volumes.
There are no rules for creation. If there were, I wouldn’t follow them. I create characters the same way I create stories; with my imagination. You imagination is a phenomenal tool that never ceases to amaze. There’s something beautiful about the unknown, the unseen, the yet to be created. It’s raw, untouched, and begging to be spilled across your canvas. When I make a character, that’s what I want to draw from. I want to create what’s best for the story, and the only thing that knows what’s best, is the place the story came from. The imagination, where there are no boundaries, no rules, no lengths it won’t travel. All you have to do is close your eyes, reach inside, and see what it creates.
~Come on back tomorrow. My Associate Reviewer, Tabby, will be reviewing EXILED!