As I began writing The Apothecary Rose I envisioned Potter Digby as a loathsome creature in the spirit of Chaucer’s Summoner, a throwaway character no reader would mourn. And perhaps for some he remains that way. But not for me. I can’t recall which scene it was, but not too far into the book he balked at what I planned for him. It went against his moral code. I tried again, too new at the craft to know that once an antagonist character reveals their moral code they’ve become a rounded person and there’s nothing to be done, they will have their way. This was my first taste of allowing a character to blossom. I’ve never regretted it.
His mother Magda Digby was similarly a quite simple character in the first draft of the book–in fact, she was just a figure at Potter’s burial, a bent old woman Owen assisted at the grave site. Oh, but that figure haunted me–and Owen–so much that in the revision I decided he would seek her out at the beginning of his investigation. I just let the scene play out as it would, surprised at every turn. I love when the writing is so fluid, so full of surprises. Magda continues to surprise me–what a gift. In A Rumor of Wolves, her apprentice Alisoun is revealing new aspects of Magda’s wisdom as she internalizes and learns to act from the wisdom the Riverwoman imparts in her training.
Creative work is such a mystery, isn’t it? I learn from the characters I create? How is that possible? Am I accessing my subconscious?
Musings on a foggy Monday morning…. The anniversary of the Battle of Hastings. How different might our language be had William failed to conquer, eh?
Now you’re teasing us… 🙂
Am I? Well, perhaps there’s a wee bit of that in it. But my conscious intention was to share some of the writing process.
I know there are other writers reading this blog and I’d love to hear about your experiences with characters who surprise you.