Friday, February 19, 2010

Many Voices

When I saw the topic for this week, the little voices in my head all started fighting for my attention.

"Pick me!" demands Orziel, the half-demon bastard from my first book. He's a pretty demanding, even imperious character for someone who's got no station in life and no power to back up his massive ego. Still he can be pretty persuasive.

"Pick me," he says again, this time purring in my ear as he stands behind me and rubs my shoulders. "I'm your first, and your favorite. When you write me, you get to do such nasty things like seduce pretty boys or scheme against evil empresses. If you pick me, you can spend the rest of the blog post watching me pit my two lovers against each other in an oral sex competition to see who can make the other come first."

That's Orziel all right. Manipulative, sex-obsessed and about as subtle as a 2x4 to the forehead.

"Oh screw this chump," Bernice rasps. She shoves Orziel aside and slides a plate of huevos rancheros in front of me, plus a steaming hot cup of joe. "You know you want to write about a real character, someone who defies all expectations and makes your readers laugh to boot. I'm the character for the job and you know it."

Yes, Bernice definitely is a character. At seventy-two, she's the only woman I know of brave enough to match a leopard print mini-skirt with a Grateful Dead tank top and top the whole deal off with an electric pink faux-hawk. She's also got a kick-ass collection of heavy metal CDs and she can cook like nobody's business.

"Oh please!" The Silver Panther pushes in front of Bernice and stretches to show off the aging but still fine feline physique beneath his silver costume. "Our beloved author is looking for a main character today, not some secondary wanna-be. Pick me, sweet-cheeks, and we'll definitely have some fun. It's been ages since I've tried to blow up Super City, and I'm just dying to talk about my sexual exploits as a super-villain extraordinaire."

Bernice shoves a finger in the Panther's face. "You know pal, I may be a few years older than you, but I'm willing to bet I can prove you don't have nine lives."

"Is that so, Grandma?" The Panther shakes his hips, making the tail on his costume swish back and forth. "Bring it, old lady! I'll chew you up like a cheap cat toy and spit you back up again!"

Orziel sighs and fondles the boy toy he's dug up from somewhere. "Good. While you two work that out, I've got something to show dear Helen. You remember Jarresh, right?" Orziel says to me. The slim redhead on his lap has better hair than I do and far nicer lingerie. "He's got the most amazing mouth, and I just love the way he dances," Orziel purrs. He slips a finger in the waistband of Jarresh's loincloth. "You really were on the ball when you created him."

Jarresh doesn't say anything. He just smiles, blushes, and arches back against Orziel. That pretty little slut knows he's got it good right now. In the next book, I'm going to have to take him down a peg or two.

But first I have to sort things out between Bernice and the Silver Panther before they destroy my office. Assuming I can get to them. The room is starting to get a little crowded now as more and more characters clamber around, each demanding their moment in the spot light. Even Diane Horner, the forty-something mom who's just sitting quietly at my desk searching the internet for gay porn, is making her presence known. Especially when she finds certain pictures of a dark-haired young man doing nasty things in a cheap motel room.

"I'll just leave this up here," she says, vacating my chair so I can sit and write my blog post. "I bookmarked a few sites. You can browse through them while you decide who you really want to write about."

Damn, damn, damn. So many characters, so little time. And so very little office space. They're all pressed up against me now, and not a damn one of them is behaving properly. I guess that's how I know they're good characters. They don't listen to me, the author. They don't do what I want them to do. They've got minds of their own and they take off in whatever direction they want to go, carefully plotted story outlines be damned. With such a cast of strong-willed individuals, how can I pick just one to be my favorite?

"Excuse," I hear a soft voice say, "I know you're busy right now, but could you do something for me? This stupid costume doesn't fit right and I've got a party to go to, remember?"

I look over and see Dana standing at the window, dressed in the badly fitted French maid's outfit I put him in last night. At least I think his name is Dana. Whether or not Dana is a 'he' sort of depends on the time of day and Dana's mood. He... she... fusses with the cheap costume, pulling at the baggy top that's meant to be filled with breasts he/she (ze?) doesn't have. Meanwhile, a tall lanky character that's just as hard to pin down and still doesn't have a name yet is standing in the corner watching Dana struggle with his/her (zer?) outfit.

"I can fix that for you," the unknown says, eyes unreadable behind mirrored sunglasses.

Dana huffs and adjusts the skirt. "I don't even know you yet."

"You will," the unknown character responds. "Pretty soon, you and I are going to get to know each other very, very well."

Dana blushes and turns away, but I see his/her/zer eyes slide back to the unknown character in the corner. Suddenly I know who I want to write about - the unknown, unfinished characters with plans all their own, the ones yet to be fully discovered.

I sit down at my keyboard and begin to type.



    Helen! You managed to make me laugh, and I am a still half asleep. LOL Normally I don't expend that much energy this early in the morning.

    I love it!

  2. Thank you Michelle! I had so many characters clamoring to be the star this morning, but after writing the first couple thousand words on my recent WIP this week, I knew who ought to get the spotlight.

    Glad you enjoyed the post. Everyone should start the day off laughing ;)

  3. Helen,

    It's good to know I'm not the only one who sits in an office listening to the voices inside my head all day long :-)

    Breat post,


  4. Ashley,

    I not only listen to the voices, I also talk back to them. Reason number one why I don't leave the house much ;)

    Have a wonderful weekend!


  5. Ah but the voices are good company. : ) I'd rather sit and talk to them some days than actual people. : )


  6. Hello, Helen,

    Some of these characters I know...but who is Bernice? She sounds like a hot ticket!

    Not that all your characters aren't...

    To paraphrase a common saying about software engineers, "Managing characters is like herding cats."

    Great post! I'm looking forward to the sequel to Demon by Day.


  7. Hi Helen.

    As I have mentioned before in emails to you and comments on your podcast, Demon by Day is one of the few M/m books in the genre that I've liked.

    One of those reasons is how strong and irrepressible Orziel is as a character.

  8. This post is freaking hilarious, Helen! Well done! I think you're absolutely right - the best characters are the ones that won't behave and make the story their own.

  9. Orziel sounds like a blast. Another hero I just have to sample. Y'all know I'm going to go broke on your yummy books. :)


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