Like most writers, I find my characters within my soul, and I distribute my personal attributes and flaws freely but not fairly to characters far and wide. Molding the magic that makes for an intriguing character can be a complicated process, but once I know them, they become companions in the greater quest of creating and telling a story.
Lisen, my first protagonist, made her debut in the process by introducing herself to me as “Ann.” “It’s the shortened version of my full name, Ariannas.” “Okay,” I replied and proceeded to produce a story and define a character around that declaration.
The problem was Ann was boring. She’d been raised in a co-ed monastery where the hermits taught her to be obedient and passive. But after many years of working the story, I finally discovered her name was Lisen, not Ann, and she’d spent time on earth before ending up in Garla. She was 17 years old and sassy. And I realized I hadn’t liked her much before, but I really liked her now.
Writing from the point of view of a 17-year-old was relatively safe. Seventeen-year-olds sometimes think like adults, and they can certainly talk like adults. They may make unreasonable demands, but you can, at the least, talk to them. And despite what some people think, not all main characters represent the author. In Lisen’s case, she was the woman I’d always wished to be.
I finished Lisen’s story about a year ago and found myself faced with a dilemma. What next? As I cleaned up the text and formatted the final book for publication, I pondered the possibilities and made notes. I’d always hoped to write a memoir. But I’m a very linear thinker, and memoir generally requires a willingness to write on topics as they occur to you and worry about the organization later. So, how about a fictional memoir? A YA fantasy fictional memoir? What could possibly go wrong?
Well, not much has actually gone wrong. I’m approaching the end of book 1, and Mari, my protagonist, is a 15-year-old me. Of course, the fantasy situations confronting her are not what I went through at that age, but her home life, her mother and the way she relates to others is ALL me. That’s scary. But equally as scary was her age.
You may not realize this, but 15-year-olds live in a whole different world. Everything is more important than everything else, and they can be a little narcissistic without it being an actual psychological diagnosis other than “she’s 15 years old—come on.” On top of that, unlike in the Lisen of Solsta series where I switched POVs between nine or ten characters with every scene, the entire book is told through her eyes.
So, I have chosen to plunge myself into mid adolescence. Again. It was hard enough the first time. But a truth burns within me that must be told, and if I can’t do it as a memoir, I will, by god, reveal it in fiction. I’ve promised Mari I’ll make it work.