Character Development

How do you progress with a character you adore? Trust me on this, as the author and creator you are the last person with any objectivity on this subject. I’ve been carrying the soul of my OC Jamai since my high school days, which isn’t saying much considering way back when she was second banana to her lover Youssou’s predecessor Conan-the-Barbarian wanna-be. Oh yeah, they were white too. A white barbarian tribe in Africa. That’s how much work I had cut out for me.

Well, yes. I brought that on myself. Fortunately, I was connected with some friends in a Seattle group that called itself Writer’s Cramp. I’m trying to remember all the details; forgive for if I get a few wrong. I was invited to one such meeting, in Kent I believe, and as we were leaving for home, Fran asked what I thought. I just spent two hours reviewing the works of five people who were considerably more talented and imaginative than I was, who took considerable pleasure in ripping their precious works to shreds. All I could say was, “You guys are vicious!”

That kind of breaking things down from the ground up was exactly what I needed. It was a hard couple of years, but I am grateful to all my friends for the grueling education in improving your science fiction writing that I acquired. What this meant for Jamai was that I had to take a few months off to do a hard reset.

In Her Dreams 1 closeup- (1)

For starter, that whole ‘white barbarians in an African setting’ b.s. had got to go. Second, and in no way would I suggest there was a stark moment of enlightenment that drove my thinking at this point. Doesn’t really happen in writing, folks. Sorry. At some point, however, I started putting Jamai face-forward, as she seemed to be the stronger character, even with the shoddy works I’d been showcasing her in before.

So where did that leave us? Well, now we had a new problem, something you may have noticed with most TV programs and comic book characters. Namely, that at the beginning of each story Jamai wound up at the same point she started at in the last fekking story! My strategy, such as it was, would be to lead up to the big life-defining conflict she’d face as an adult. The new stories began in childhood and would lead her through her teens. My friends in Writers Cramp pointed this weakness out to me, and honestly, I didn’t want to hear it! I knew what I was doing! Heh heh, I thought did, anyway.

Took a while for the lesson to sink in. Things happened. I lost contact with Cramp, and in the Double-Oughts, the ever-lovin’ 2000’s, I was engaged in a self-engaged quest to raise awareness for the issue of the slave trade in the Sudan. I was proud of the work I did with my fictional team, the Emancipation Posse; I think I did some of my best work with this book collection. I loved these people: Kate, Fong, Quench and Dru. And about three stories in, I added my favorite OC to the mix.

This wasn’t the same girl I’d ben writing tales for before, though. This was Old Jamai, hereafter known as Granny. I liked Old Jamai. She was confident, self-assured, a spiritual guide who did not suffer fools. I needed that time apart in her narrative to jog my brain cells and figure out how that young lady grows into the goddess she would become. And in a way I’m still exploring that issue.

 

B & S new cover

Butterfly & Serpent

in paperback and Kindle

available at Amazon.com

Reflections: Facing Mount Kenya

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If you’re going to write about a place you’ve never been and people you’re not familiar with, if you want to bring truth to the tales you tell, it might be a good idea to listen to the voices of those who know and what they have to say.

This is the first book I encountered in my African studies written by a man of Africa. There’s a rich literary history most of us are quite unaware of, that is really not that hard to find. The problem is not enough of us are really looking and our schools are not going out of their way to expose our children to Afrocentric literature.

Facing Mount Kenya was something I stumbled on in a used book store in the 1980s. It was the author who caught my eye. Jomo Kenyatta, for all you younglings out there, is not just any Panafricanist; he’s like the father of his country, Kenya. I’m not going into his history at this time. It’s the book we’re concerned with here, which speaks of his pride of home and of his culture.

Published in 1938, this was essentially an anthropological study, from the inside, of Kenyatta’s Gikuyu people. It imparts their values and traditions, perhaps giving away more than he was really supposed to, and mayhaps that was the point, to explain his home and people to the Western world. And perhaps open some minds to the fact that they are more than the mindless savages all Africans are portrayed as in Tarzan novels, as well as too many adventure movies to come.

It may have also been too British in tone, a reflection of Kenyatta’s love for his Anglo home away from home. This is where my true African re-education began. Possibly some of my male characters in my writing are scewed to the lessons I learned from this book, and if so, well here’s where it began.

http://www.bookrags.com/studyguide-facing-mount-kenya-the-tribal-life/#gsc.tab=0