When I attended the recent workshop, Focus on Character, at the Alexandra Writers’ Centre, Emily Ursuliak discussed creating hybrid characters. That is, creating characters that contain elements from different people in your life, and blending them together into a whole new person – a hybrid.
Kendra, my main character Hanna’s sister in Unspeakable, is just that: a hybrid.
Physically, Kendra is a cross between my sister and my close friend (who is of Asian descent.) Both of these special women’s first names start with a K, so to keep things straight in my head when I first started plotting out Unspeakable, I gave her the name Kendra – and it never changed.
Personality wise, Kendra is a combination between my sister and myself. But her backstory, to me, is the most interesting part.
Now, some elements of her backstory are invented of course, and some are inspired by elements of our childhood (my sister’s and mine) and my good friend’s childhood. But one essential element about Kendra came from a rumour that was started when my sister and I were kids. I asked myself the question: What if that rumour had been true? The answer to that question helped me create a plot point that was essential to the subplot of Unspeakable (sorry, you’ll have to read Unspeakable to know what that is…)
Here’s a sneak peak of Hanna with Kendra (with a little hint as to how Hanna meets Hank for the first time).
I go through the motions of completing my order and then take my sandwiches and drinks out to the picnic table.
Kendra whistles and shakes out her hand like she touched something hot. “Wow, did you see that hottie pants who just walked out of the restaurant? This town may stink, but the view sure is fine.”
I shrug and unwrap my sandwich.
“C’mon, don’t tell me you didn’t notice.”
I don’t want Kendra to know the effect he had on me; she’d never let it go. “He was nothing special.”
Kendra shrieks and slides her sandwich over. “Nothing special? Uhmygod, that’s like saying the sun isn’t bright.” She pauses in the middle of unwrapping her sandwich. “Huh, maybe that’s it.”
“You’ve stared at the sun too long and it broke your eyes.”
I chuck a piece of lettuce at her. “Eat your sandwich.”
Kendra plucks the lettuce out of her hair. She scans the sandwiches and drinks I’ve placed on the table, raises her palms, and frowns. “Hey, you forgot my cookie.” So much for not letting him affect me.