How Characters Come to Life

Jesa's Note: You may need to understand how many layers there are here in Marzipan's writing. There is the story, including all the characters in the story, one of whom is the faery cat Marzipan. This is being shown in SecondLife.com so we can get good photos. That's the first and deepest layer. The next layer is Marzipan, the tiny Manx cat in this world we laughingly call "reality". She channels the characters and the story itself for our edification. (There will be more than one story, of course). Then, in turn, I "channel" Marzipan and write things down for her. This may seem a little confusing at first, but if you just bear in mind that the words you read here are Marzipan's channelings from a world between here and faery, and I in turn reflect her words and write them down for her, it should all be easy to comprehend — I hope. I think I understand it... Here we are just learning about the story behind the story. I believe that proper writers call this "character development." Here is what Marzipan has seen about some of the female faery cats (the kella) in her story, especially Aine...

Well, it has been a very exciting day. Herself and I are not only writing the story of the kellas sith dos, but we are making some the pictures as well. A few days ago, we realized that all of the kella would probably prefer to let their manes grow out and be pretty — our avatars in SecondLife look like we gave ourselves crewcuts, which the guys (the kel) seem happy with, but we kella were not. We experimented a bit with my avatar in Second Life and came up with this:

I wanted to call them pigtales as a sort of pun for faery tales, but Herself outvoted me and she is the one who thinks she is in charge of the keyboard. The pigtales (prt!) are nice for playing in, but I'm growing up in the story and we'll need to show both sides of me — partly still a child and partly an older-but-not-grown-up young kella. Herself and I looked at hundreds of hair styles for my mane in Second Life, but couldn't find anything that was just what we wanted.

So the first one of us to get her mane styled was Alison, who found just the right thing. She wants to be a rock star and to be unique and special. This is the perfect "do" for her mane — although she will want colored streaks in it sometimes because she is a colorful and flamboyant being:

After Allie had found the purrfect style for herself, her best friend Aine went searching for one she liked. Aine is more difficult — in more ways than one. I have been quite uncomfortable with her and didn't understand why
she was in my story. Mrrr. She is a wild one and wants nothing to do with the ways of the Big Ones — not clothes (unless it is very cold and fur is just not enough), not a really fancy do for her mane like Allie's, not a bed by the fire. Although she does love cream at bedtime and the sparkle of jewelry, which she makes for herself from the pretty shiny things she finds or trades for from the other kellas sith dos (our faery cat people), she just seemed difficult and sulky, bristly and spikey. Herself says sometimes unhappy tween-agers are like that. Also, she didn't like me, and made that clear. I didn't know what to do about any of that.

In Aine's profile in Second Life, she describes herself: "I am Aine, but just call me Annie — not all that fancy "Awn-ye" stuff. I have rich relatives, but I live feral in the wilds of the Western Isles.  I don't need anything from anybody. I can take care of myself. I only take gifts from Santa Paws — and who believes in him? If you wanna talk to me, I might be friendly. Who knows?"

At first I wondered if her mane ought to look spikey and unkempt because she is so determined to be feral, but she is not an untidy kella at all. She is always clean and well groomed. It seemed like her mane should match the rest of her — smooth, not fussy at all, simple, and black as midnight. Finally she found just the right thing to suit who she is — sleek, pretty, and... a bit wild and dangerous-looking:

While Aine was out looking at styles for her mane, she also found one for me! I didn't think she liked me enough to do that, so I was surprised. How could she choose something for someone she didn't like? I've been told that she has never wanted to be friends with me because I live in a house with a Big One and she thinks that is terrible. I don't understand her! But still, she sent me a Second Life teleport so she could show the style to me. I sent my avatar and when I saw it, I was so pleased — it is just right for me. I'm not a sleek person like Aine — this is tousled and windblown and purrfectly beautiful for me. Here I am back home with it all lovely:

Then we went back to the village together and walked around, enjoying our new styles. It was late at night after all the Big Ones and most everyone else were sound asleep, and a very surprising thing happened. This is what is so strange and magical about writing this story — things you don't expect come out of nowhere and jump out at you with their very rightness and a strong feeling that they were inevitable, something already there, already written, but unnoticed.

I took Aine into the bookstore to show her what my book is going to look like, but she barely noticed it. Instead, her eyes went straight to  the pictures on the wall — they are nice, Herself did them so they have magic. But lots of things have magic — everything really if you think about it. But looking at these pictures made Aine's fur stood out all over and she quivered and trembled.

"Are you all right, Aine?" I asked. I hadn't any idea what was wrong. She just stared and stared at the pictures.

"What are these?" she whispered.

"They are paintings. Herself made them."

"I'd no idea... I never dreamed... Look at the colors! How could she make those fine lines and the shadows? They are the most beautiful things I ever saw. I don't believe it!" She turned her head to look at me, her eyes quite wild. I was almost afraid of her for a moment, but she was just so excited that she was dancing from foot to foot.

I had a good idea. I said, "Let's go to Gran'ma's shop — Herself and I moved all the art supplies there so everyone could share them. We had had a lot of sewing things in there — materials and machines and stuff — but we moved them all to the new weaver's shop, where the Big Women gather each day for a gossip and a tisane while they sew and mend. So there was a lot of space at Gran'ma's shop and everyone thought it would be a good place for the paints and things."

(I didn't explain this to Aine, but Herself had a work table for an artist with sketches on it. We put it where the sewing machine used to be and... it looked like it had always been there, part of everything going on in the shop. So now instead of being a general store where clothes were made, it suddenly was a general store and an arts and crafts center. My jewelry-making things are there too. The funny thing was, it already said that on the sign outside: Arts & Crafts! And it didn't say anything about clothes at all. But the sign was made months ago! That's part of what I mean about us knowing — but not knowing — where the story is going until it gets there. As if it were writing itself and only giving us ideas when it has to.)

It was easy to see that Aine was desperate to see the paints and things so we went over to Gran'ma's shop. Aine is as curious as any cat, but hadn't ever wanted to show interest in the village lest people think she was becoming tame, so she'd no idea what to expect.  As we walked the short distance, her steps slowed down.

"They won't want me in there," she said. I couldn't tell if she was angry or sad — it seemed like both at once from her tone and her scent.

"Nonsense!" I patted her arm. "If someone doesn't want to come into the village, the Big Ones pay very little attention to them, but if someone does want to come, they make them welcome. They have tea and coffee and cakes for Big Ones and salmon cakes and cream for us purrsons. I'm sure Herself and Gran'ma would be very happy for you to come in and see the paints and things! That's what they put them there for — so people and purrsons could see and use them! Come on," I patted her again. I'd have liked to give her ear a lick for comfort, but I was afraid she wouldn't like it.
As soon as she saw the art table with sketches scattered all over it and the sketches pinned up on the wall, she stood there just transfixed. It was like she had been in the bookstore only even more so. I got goosebumps and my fur stood on end. There was a strong electric feeling in the air and I knew!  We had found what could make Aine a happy purrson.

(The me that is the Manx cat in the earth world... that me was standing in Herself's lap watching the computer screen while she and I held our breath to see what would happen next!)

Aine breathed, "I didn't know humans had things like this! I've always just drawn with my paw in the sand or scratched on scraps of wood or used burnt wood on stone! Mrrr! The colors — the glorious colors! Look! Is that white floppy stuff to paint on? It's so smooth! And what are these things?" She pointed at the brushes and pencils. "Who knew? I never dreamed! Well, I did dream, but I never thought things like this could be real! I am so excited! My life is completely changed now!"

There was a chair at the art table and I persuaded her to get into it. For the longest time, she just sat there looking at everything, not touching any of it.

I got up on the table so I could explain the different things to her. I let her stay there as long as she wanted while we talked about things — but I wanted to please her even more.

So, while she looked at the sketches and things, I put a canvas on the easel beside my jewelry workbench, and called her over to look at the earrings I'm making. They are very beautiful, all shiny and sparkly.

She was fascinated, but I could see she was anxious to look at the painting things more so I gave her a palette with paint on it and a brush, stood her in front of the easel, and told her to try it! She was all trembly again and breathing fast. I stepped back to give her room. At first she just stood there looking wild and scared...

But finally she started painting. I could see she was concentrating hard and that she'd rather not be watched so I had a wee nap in Gran'ma's rocking chair. To my amazement, when I woke Aine was just finishing a painting. That seemed very fast, but the painting was truly amazing and beautiful. Here she is giving it the final touches:

Then she stepped back and picked up another canvas. There were actually two different ones, and this one was the first one she did:

It is very dramatic and beautiful, like she is herself. And then she showed me this!

It is so wonderful. It made me feel so special when I saw it. Not only was I surprised to see that she had painted me, but I was very moved by the way she painted me. I can see her artist's magic very clearly in both pictures. She made me look very beautiful and delicate, and I think perhaps her painting says things about me that I didn't think other people could see.

And do you know what else? I can tell that not painting was what was making her so cross and rude — she had all of this inside of her and no way to let it out. I am so relieved that she has found this and can be who she has the talent to be. I love her so much now!

At this moment, Herself and I don't know how or when all of this information about Aine will fit into these stories — but we know it will, just as surely as we know that we will write them. And most importantly, we understand who Aine truly is and why she is the way she is.

My question to you is, do all characters in stories behave like Aine just did, inventing themselves? How do the people in your stores behave? How do they tell you about themselves? Is it like this or is this especially a faery or a cat thing?

Do you suppose they might be 'real' (as real as we are?) somewhere and we writers just 'tune in' to that reality? And now, we've been up all night, all excited about the things happening — do all writers do that? It's a strange thing for cats to do — but the kellas sith dos are hardly ordinary cats. Nor am I!

Back to On Writing