The Best Characters Just “Appear”

2014 Artwork Spontaneous Characters Sketch

Well, a couple of weeks ago, I made a random painting. I wasn’t feeling hugely inspired and the only idea I could come up with was to paint something that looked like something from a Hidden Object Game.

Initially, I thought about painting a messy room with an inventory bar along the bottom of the page and a hint button in the corner, but as soon as I started sketching this, I realised that it wouldn’t really look that great.

So, I erased my sketch and just started drawing randomly. Then, before I knew it, this character had emerged:

"Heather Greyfield And The Vanishing Station" By C. A. Brown

“Heather Greyfield And The Vanishing Station” By C. A. Brown

Unlike many of the random characters who appear in my paintings and drawings, Heather Greyfield not only already had a name, but she also seemed to have a story of some kind too.

Annoyingly though, she seems to be a computer game character – and, not being a programmer (or really having enough money to get the professional version of Adventure Maker, even though the free version is really cool) – I’m not sure if she could also work as a literary character or a comic character. But, she might well end up appearing in something or other in the future.

Anyway, this experience made me think about the whole subject of spontaneous characters.

Although I’ve created a fair number of comic and literary characters over the past few years, the best characters I’ve created – by far- are the ones who just kind of “appear” of their own accord.

These are the kinds of characters that you don’t really spend ages designing or planning, they just “appear” somewhere or other (usually, in my case, in my art) and then you’re left with the interesting job of trying to learn more about who they are and, occasionally, even what their names are.

This might be because I’m an artist as well as a writer (ok, I’m much more of an artist than a writer these days), but this still used to happen back when I’d laugh at the idea of ever becoming an artist because my drawings looked more like this:

Some random doodles I made during a lecture about six years ago.

Some random doodles I made during a lecture about six years ago.

If you’re not an artist, then it’s possible that these kinds of characters may just appear as mental images, a particular type of narrative voice or a verbal description that suddenly pops into your mind. But, when they do, write down and/or draw as much as you can remember.

This is how my “Damania” comic, “Somnium” comic and my “CRIT” comic started out with characters like this. I’d drawn a random picture, one amongst many, and then somehow it seemed like the characters in the picture had much more of a story to tell than any of the other characters I’d drawn.

Not only that, these kinds of spontaneous characters are almost always mysterious in some way or another. They’re always intriguing enough to make you want to learn more about who they are and what their story is.

For example, when I first drew Roz and Derek from “Damania” back in 2011, I knew that they were some kind of paranormal investigators, but I didn’t even know their names. In fact, it was another month or two before I even knew Derek’s name :

"The Magician's Room" By C.A.Brown [2011]

“The Magician’s Room” By C.A.Brown [2011]

I still, for the life of me, don’t know where these types of characters come from – whether they emerge from the depths of the subconscious mind or, to get a bit more mystical, whether they appear from some unknown outside source or other. But, regardless, they can just appear at random.

It’s always amazing when one of these characters appears and I still can’t really understand it – I’ll draw and paint hundreds of random characters and then one of them will just kind of “jump” out at me and seem more “real” than the others.

I’m not sure if there are any ways to make these types of characters appear more often, or whether they just show up in their own time. But, when one appears, then make sure that you make some kind of record of their existence. Although, saying that, most of these characters are too mysterious and intriguing to be forgotten easily.

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Sorry that this article was slightly rambling, but I hope that it was interesting 🙂

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Four Sizzling Tips For Writing Spontaneous Stories

2014 Artwork Spontaneous storytelling sketch

Well, during one of the longest fiction-writing “droughts” that I can remember, I sat down one night and wrote four thousand words of fiction in about three hours.

I hadn’t written any other stories for months, but I wrote four thousand words of mildly well-written fiction. I wasn’t surprised and I still considered myself to be in the middle of a fiction drought afterwards.

Why? Because I’ll probably never publish any of that story. Why? Because it was written purely for my own enjoyment and would probably have an extremely limited appeal to anyone else.

Since this is a blog for more general audiences, I won’t go into the plot details of my story too much. Suffice it to say, it involved a Mary Sue narrator, an incredibly handsome fictional boyfriend (a fictional girlfriend would have also been interesting, but this seemed more like a handsome boyfriend kind of story) and I’ll leave the rest to your imagination….

Anyway, this delightful experience got me thinking about the whole subject of spontaneous writing. The kind of writing which is so vivid and so interesting that it’s a real struggle to keep typing in time with your imagination. The kind of writing where the stories pretty much tell themselves and you’re only there in order to record it in writing.

Although I can only usually seem to do this with certain types of risque stories, I have been able to do it with a detective/horror story once. It was when I tried unofficially taking the “3 Day Novel” challenge for my own amusement in 2009 and ended up churning out about 8-10,000 words in about seven hours.

So, spontaneous writing can obvious be done in other genres too even if, for me, it only usually happens in one genre.

Anyway, I thought that I’d used the insights I’ve gained from writing spontaneous fiction to provide four tips about how to write lots of fiction very quickly.

1) Genre: As I said earlier, if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably only have one or two genres you can do this in. These are genres which fascinate you in a way that no other genres do. These are genres you could happily daydream about for hours.

I’m not just talking about the kinds of genres you like to read, but the kind of genres that- when you read something in them, you’re gripped instantly and can’t stop reading.

If a genre or sub-genre has this much of a grip on your imagination, then you can write spontaneously in it. If it doesn’t, then you can’t.

2) Recycle an old story: So, you’re in the mood for writing something spontaneously. You know what your story will include, but you can’t work out the exact details of it or exactly how it will happen. Don’t worry. Just take the plotline from one of your other stories and change enough details until it fits into the kind of story that you want to write.

If you’ve already written in the genre or genres that fascinate you, then just try re-writing one of your old stories with a few additional scenes and different characters. Put a new spin on your old story, give it more of a personality, make a “director’s cut” of it. Whatever works.

If you’re in the mood for spontaneous writing, then it’s more important to actually start writing than it is to ensure that your story is entirely new. In fact, if you’re smart, you can even tell the same story over and over again and still keep people interested.

3)Forget quality: If you’re writing spontaneously, then you don’t have time to go back and correct every clumsily-worded sentence – nor should you. If you want to edit your story, do it later. When you’re writing spontaneously, the most important thing should be to actually write or type your story.

If you can’t think of a good way to describe something when you’re writing and you feel like you’re slowing down, then just describe it in the first way that comes to mind (however clumsy or repetitive it sounds) and carry on. You need to keep your story moving, there is plenty of time for editing later.

4) Write it for yourself: As I’ve hinted earlier, the main audience you should be writing for when you write spontaneously is yourself. You should write the kind of story which you, and you alone, absolutely have to read.

If other people might also be interested in it, then this is a bonus. But if you write your spontaneous story whilst you’re thinking about whether anyone else would want to read it, then you’ll slow down. You’ll start to hesitate. It will feel like your entire audience is perched above you and scruitinising every word that you write.

So, when you’re writing, ignore your audience. Just write for yourself.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (14th February 2014)

Well, both of today’s watercolour pencil paintings were a lot more spontaneous than usual (in other words, they were both slightly rushed LOL!)

As usual, these two pictures are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"The First Kiss" By C. A. Brown

“The First Kiss” By C. A. Brown

Well, since today is a totally pointless and annoying day invented by greetings card companies for the sole purpose of selling more cards and irritating proudly single people such as myself Valentines’ Day, I thought that I’d paint a picture of two people kissing and, within about ten minutes, I’d painted “The First Kiss“.

"Faerie Aura" By C. A. Brown

“Faerie Aura” By C. A. Brown

Faerie Aura” was a small painting that I made a couple of weeks ago [I usually paint every day’s art a while in advance] as a gift for someone.