Running dry?

Hi! This doesn’t relate to anything – except a discussion elsewhere, on whether you eventually get to a stage in writing where creation becomes more difficult because you’ve used up all your best settings, your best story ideas, your best characters. Does new inspiration become harder after you’ve written 10 – or 20 – or 30 books?

It makes sense to me – but I’m happy to say that only because I wasted so much of my potential writing life with writer’s block. I reckon I’ve got enough creative ideas stored up to last for a decade or more yet. (Worldshaker is a new world for readers, but it was actually imagined ages ago.)

Also, since the blockage came unblocked, I’ve jumped around promiscuously from sub-genre to sub-genre and one kind of world to another – which is a very good way to avoid creative exhaustion, like crop rotation! But it’s a bad way to sell books, because readers never get to associate your name with a particular type of book – you’ll always disappoint some fans if your latest story isn’t the kind they expect. Now I’m planning to ‘settle down’ and mine the steampunk vein for a while, which, luckily, is where my imagination is most at home.

There’s another reason I think I can stay with the same world for a while – I’ve become more interested in characters than world creation. (Is this a sign of growing old?) I remember thinking a few books ago that I was starting to run out of character possibilities, but I seem to have got a second wind. I’ve just been planning a third steampunk novel, first book of a second duology, and I’m very pleased with the new characters I’m developing for it. I swear they pop into my head more readily than they ever used to, and I think I know why.

The fact is I don’t really create characters any more – I create interactions. I sort of said this in my writing tips (at, in the section on ‘creating characters in groups’) – now I’m finding it coming even more true than I realised when I said it. I find I’m creating characters in pairs or multiples or contexts – they only exist when they start bouncing off one another, or bouncing off their contact with a particular setting or turn of events. Sometimes the character comes before the setting or turn of events,  and sometimes vice versa – but never a character on his/her own, not any more.

Well, it works for me. It’s given me a whole new interest and excitement over characters!



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4 Responses to Running dry?

  1. Creating characters that bounce off each other is something Joss Whedon talks about int he special features on Firefly. He says he learnt with Buffy that an ensemble cast gives you more room for interesting character interaction.

  2. Hee yes I do that too – the problem I’m finding with the Creature Court is that my characters have so much baggage, I get awfully swept up in the things that happened five and ten years ago, and completely neglect what’s happening right now.

    Oh, for a book in which none of the characters have ever met before :D No, that would be no fun at ALL.

  3. trentjamieson says:

    “The fact is I don’t really create characters any more – I create interactions.”

    Richard, I love that line!

  4. Pingback: Characterisation through View Point, revealed by Action « Ripping Ozzie Reads

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