My favorite aspect of writing fiction is creating the characters. They become so concrete in my mind that they feel like real people, and once they’re firmly established, I have no problem knowing exactly how they not only look, dress and sound, but also what they would say, think, feel, or react to situations. The 16-year-old heroine of The Tramp, Candy Vale, is especially dear to my heart, because she was partially inspired by 16-year-old me (or how I remember that me). Her Tumblr avatar was made from a picture of me at that age, altered extensively with Photoshop.
From the very beginning drafts, since Candy was my main character, I found her thinking like I might about the more important issues she has to deal with, like religion, family, rejection, and of course boyfriends. Any real person would make plenty of mistakes in those high-drama areas, so Candy did, too. She often made the same mistakes I did, mistakes I regret to this day! Real people have flaws, and guess who’s flaws Candy developed. Impatience. Hot-headedness. The best thing about creating a character that shares those traits, however, is that I can create a story in which she triumphs in spite of–nay! because of!–those personal challenges. Oh, is that fun (see, I was always right to throw those temper tantrums, mom).
The artwork that Candy posts on her Tumblr blog is, of course, my artwork. There was no reason to make any new work either, since (like most visual artists I know) I had stacks and stacks of the stuff that would likely have rotted away in a closet or drawer, had I not found better use for it. The first thing she posted was a piece of poetry about something upsetting that happens before the novel begins, and not only was it fun to write some melodramatic teenage poetry, but it allows a reader deeper insight into Candy. You can’t stuff it all into a novel, without ending up with War And Peace, after all.
Like the sapphires we never found in our creek, and the flowers you laced into my braids instead.
Like hope in a new morning sky, and faith that the sun will be there again tomorrow.
Like the light I remember in your eyes, and the oceans of space and time between us now.
Like the vast, fathomless night, and the bleakness of a finished day, incomplete and disappointing.
I’ve always preferred Red.
The way that Candy uses artwork in order to communicate with others is a familiar experience for me, and many of my fellow artists. This is something that I wish I had understood when I was as young as Candy, but I didn’t begin making art until I was in college. If there is one thing I could express of value to young readers, it would be that art helps us to understand ourselves and people around us, and allows us to take a step back and calm down when all those hormones are raging. I could’ve used a little paint and charcoal myself back in the day!
The music that Candy blogs about is some of the music that inspired my writing, and posting a link is just a small thank you from me to them. I never listen to such music when I’m actually writing, by the way–I listen to white noise, mixed by Tinnitus Pro–but I think about my imaginary friends in their imaginary lives all throughout the day while I’m not writing, and contemporary music influences my thoughts quite a bit. Thank you, AltNation!