A Glimpse of Kendra: Creating Hybrid Characters

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.”

“What’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.

Further vs Farther

I’m posting a little later this week as I’ve been hard at work, reviewing my editors preliminary edits of the manuscript for Unspeakable.

I’ve learned quite a few things. Among them? I’m dash crazy – a fact I already knew. 😉

One of the things that surprised me though is that I used “further” incorrectly. Check out this sentence from Unspeakable:

I decide to take what little I can get and sink further into the couch, further into him.

My editor, Tanis, with ReVision Editing, changed it to this:

I decide to take what little I can get and sink farther into the couch, farther into him.

What’s the difference? Well, I wasn’t sure. So I asked my husband, a man who uses the word “tranche” in everyday conversation. True story. Over beers with friends, he used the word “tranche”. But I digress.

He wasn’t sure, but said he preferred my version.

So, I looked it up. And here’s what I found out:

Farther’ signifies distances. As in, “The hare is farther down the track than the turtle.”

Whereas, ‘further’ is a figurative term, as in, “You’ll get further in life, if you study hard.”

However, some dictionaries say that they can be used interchangeably. So, I guess it depends on who you believe and what feels right.

This is my final version of that sentence:

I decide to take what little I can get and sink farther into the couch, further into him.

I always meant the second ‘further’ to be figurative, as when she sinks into the couch, she is allowing the relationship to progress further.

 

Writing Exercises That Inspire

 

A Hint of Hank…

Henry-Cavill-Immortals-027

In the intermediate creative writing class I took at the Alexandra Writers’ Centre two years ago, our teacher gave us weekly writing assignments. I found these very helpful at flexing my writing muscle and letting the creativity flow. In an interview with Vulture, Gillian Flynn reported that the “Cool Girl” article in Gone Girl came about when she was doing a writing exercise to help alleviate writer’s block. She indicated that, as a rule, she tends not to use writing exercises in her actual manuscripts, as writers tend to “shoehorn” them in. This resonated with me as I had a few that I tried to do just that with, and ended up deleting. However, there are a couple of scenes that started as writing exercises that really inspired the trajectory of my story (in a good way). I thought I would share one with you today.

 

The assignment was to write something from the starter line, “There is a particular place he is going to tonight but…”, and to just let it flow. I thought about my main male protagonist, ‘Hank’ when writing it. This is NOT the version in my manuscript for Unspeakable, but rather the exercise that inspired a ‘TSN Turning Point’ scene (I also removed names and spoilers). This exercise helped me understand ‘Hank’ a little bit better and set the tone of his voice.

I hope you enjoy it!

On the shores of Wabigoon Lake

 

There is a particular place he is going to tonight but he is not prepared to admit to himself where that is. If he ends up there again, it is not on purpose. This is a small town, there are not many streets, it’s only natural – after all this was his hiding place – not hers.

He pulls up to the dead-end street at the edge of town. He kills the engine and tilts the powerful machine onto its stand. He yanks the helmet off of his head, rests it on the black leather seat and runs his calloused hand through his smooth black hair, allowing the cool evening breeze to evaporate the sweat that has gathered in his short locks. He told himself that he was just going for a walk along the familiar pathway, to gather his thoughts, clear his head, to be alone. That’s not what he wanted. He wanted to see her again, to be allowed to touch her. He pushes the thought of her out his mind, pushes his body away from her, quickly marching forward. They are like magnets, you spin them in one direction and the attraction is undeniable, turn one to face the other way and they repel. He is searching solitude yet simultaneously seeking her.

His black boots compress the gravel below him as walks at an anxious pace along the familiar path ahead of him. When he veers off onto the smaller lightly trodden trail, the moonlight shines on the waxy leaves of the birch trees that feather their branches along the route, giving them an ethereal glimmer. Several minutes pass until he can see the clearing that marks their meeting place, the dark water of Wabigoon Lake shimmering in the dim light.

He pauses, the sparkle of the water momentarily mesmerizing him. An owl lets out a solemn cry. As he feared, longed for, and denied – he is alone. He leans against a tree near the waters edge, letting his breath slide out of him in synchronicity with his body as he lets his legs collapse beneath him, dragging his back along the bark, tearing at him.

He rests his head in his hands, trying to get ahold of his conflicting emotions. She had pushed him away and eventually he had responded in kind. He could not expect their friendship to continue. It wasn’t feasible in this suffocating town; where everyone thinks they know you and if they don’t, they make believe they do. There is no place for your own self. His voice will never be heard here – especially now that she is …(sorry, spoiler removed!)

 

If you have writing exercises that helped inspire you, I would love to hear about it!