Writing Characters — Boy Tirrell

First off, I should say, I don’t.  Write them, that is.  And I don’t believe that’s how it all works anyway.  At least not for me. 

They simply are.

It might be that I’ve seen a portrait and have stood before it and wondered what that individual was like, wondered what they knew, what they saw…and as I’ve thought about that over time, that character’s individuality takes shape or reveals itself in my mind.

Or sometimes, it’s a name.  And I’ll read that name somewhere, and the name suggests so much, and I’ll get such an image, and the character forms from that.   ME0000104051_1

Or sometimes, as in the case of Boy Tirrell, he just always was.  I remember first encountering him as I listened to an old Scots’ fiddle tune, known only as John D. MacDonald’s.  And I recall listening to it, and just behind the lenses of my eyes, seeing this boy, running, running, running across France…and across Europe.  Not stopping for anything.  And soon after that, I found myself writing the opening chapter of Of Honest Fame.  And there he was. 

As I’ve worked on the book, I’ve got to know him better.  Which isn’t surprising as he lives with me, in one way.  Or I live with him…not completely sure which it is.   

I don’t make decisions for him, or for any of the characters in this book.  It all just happens.  They all are who they are and don’t seem particularly interested in cutting me any slack.  I learn about them as I go along; I know what I need to know about them when I need to know it, and not before.

But the key is always being quiet enough to listen, being quiet enough to hear them speak.  To close myself enough that I can see through their eyes, see what they see…and if I’m very quiet, if I will allow it, to feel as and what they feel, to know as they know and are known.

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Writing May 1812

elder sparsholtWhen I look at the journey on which writing May 1812 has taken me, I know it’s a blessing that no one told me where it would take me, nor how long it would take me to get there.

It started life as a desire to show the men of the period as they were–all-rounders in a way.  They were none of them military strategists, they had no financial advisors, and there wasn’t a civil service.  If they had a secretary, they paid his salary.  And they did their business not just in their offices; but as most of them were society figures, they did it in their clubs and tucked away in the corners of the social events of the year–yes, even at, probably at, Almack’s.  The Foreign Secretary’s wife, Lady Castlereagh, was after all, one of the patronesses of the place.  And because their work was all-consuming, it affected every aspect of their lives.  No part was free of the political dilemma in which they found themselves.

Then, shockingly– Continue reading