Writing Meme Day 11

I've missed a few days. Sorry about that (and thanks for missing it if you actually did. :) I had to get away from the computer. Seems like this is where I spend my life these days! I wish I could mentally record this stuff while I'm, say, in the swimming pool. That would be awesome. Of course, then I'd probably do that so much that my skin would always have chlorine itch and my hair would turn green. So I guess working out a balance is the best option.

Today I'm hoping to work on my story a little bit, but I also have to do work on my geoengineering policy internship. First, though, I'll fill out the meme. Today's question is fun!

11. Who is your favorite character to write? Least favorite?

This is a tough question; I think most writers will first compare it to parents being asked which is their favorite child. It's like that for me a bit, but because this is specifically about a favorite character to write, that's a bit different. I don't care about my other characters less, but because writing a character means I have to get in their head, I think it's perfectly fair to say some character's lives and viewpoints are the most enjoyable without lessening how much I care about the others.

So, my favorite to write about is Azilie. I enjoy flying around for starters, and Coralia is an awesome place to spend a mental vacation. Azilie's mindset, though it causes her problems too and I don't recommend it without a little more maturity, is also an empowering one because she's so determined to bend the world to her will and not let anyone else make her be something she's not. This causes her some anguish when she can't bend the world to her will, and when she gets rejected for being what she is, but she only rarely lets this influence her (and never for long). When I write about her I feel like I also could do almost anything, that I don't have to be tied down by arbitrary limits, and that someone will eventually recognize me for who I am, so I don't have to pretend to be someone else.

Therefore, I really like writing about Azilie. (Though the scenes where she pays for this attitude are painful to write!) Plus, I get to see the tops of clouds. It's cool. Literally and figuratively.

Least favorite character to write? Hmmm. This does get a little too close to the "parents can't have a child they don't like" idea, because if I don't think a character's experience is worth sharing, then I won't write it. So I think I have to change this from "least favorite to write" to "most difficult to write." I have two opposing characters here, and one will no doubt surprise you. I feel like Celeste, early in her story, is difficult to write, because she has such barriers to the outside world around her. She's been called so passive that some readers didn't even want her to succeed. (Though that's been a limited problem; enough like her that I don't feel I have to change her personality. Which is good, because obviously I can't force her personality to change! You just can't write a story that way. At least, I can't, and make it ring true.)

Don't get me wrong; I really enjoy writing about Celeste. Obviously, since I've stuck with her story for so long! But, early on, it's sometimes difficult.

In a completely different way, Caleb is proving difficult to write. But that's just because his is not a mindset anyone will enjoy. But it's one I think is highly worth exploring, obviously, so I'm trying to write it. I'm not sure whether it's more painful to write him or to write Claire. We spend most of the time in Claire's POV which shields us a bit, but only a little. Otherwise there would be no point to the story.

It's funny that I would have mentioned those two, since Celeste and Caleb are, like, totally opposite. Though both Celeste and Claire are kind of obsessed with the idea of Light. Haha. Now I've kind of unnerved myself to realize how these stories at their core aren't all that different after all.

Time to go read about Giant Space Mirrors.

(Well, actually about Arctic mechanisms of governance. But people are more interested when I tell them I'm researching Giant Space Mirrors For Real.)

Writing Meme Day 10

10. What are some really weird situations your characters have been in?

You know, I actually am having trouble answering this one. I wouldn't say my characters live ordinary lives, but I'm having trouble coming up with "weird situations" that aren't spoilers. A lot of you haven't read my stories yet so I don't want to put spoilers in here. But hmm, let's see....

Celeste once got thrown out of a skyscraper.
Azilie got banned from the lagoon for racing in a lightning storm.
Chloe's parents, uh, signed her up for Japanese public school despite the fact that she's a redheaded gaijin who hardly speaks any Japanese.
Azilie has gotten thrown into deep water, which terrifies her, despite the fact that she can fly.
The Carlson Septuplets have been the targets of a bomb threat but didn't even care. (They didn't take it seriously.)
Chloe and Mary Carlson met each other while working as US Pavilion Guides at the 2005 World Expo in Japan. :)

...yeah, I'm really having trouble with this question for some reason. Most of the stuff that's happened to my characters, I don't want to say in a line here because I'd rather have you read the story. And the stuff I can think of to say isn't all that weird! I could tell you about characters you hardly even know yet, but even mentioning them seems spoilery. Oh well.

On to the next day, then.

Writing Meme Day 9

9. How do you get ideas for your characters? Describe the process of creating them.

Asking this question is a little like asking "how do you meet people?" I dunno, you just come across them, and some of them strike you enough to want to know more about them?

Of course, it's a little different with characters, but that's a good general statement. If you want more details, I am of course happen to provide them. ;)

Often, I'll be thinking about something in a general way, not planning to write a story about it or anything, and I'll just naturally find myself imagining what it would be like to be a person in that situation. Sometimes, those people turn out to be compelling enough that I really want to spend more time imagining what their lives and experiences and feelings would be like, and those become my characters. I keep reaching in the world in my head for details about them. Sometimes it's up to me to decide them, but usually something either fits or doesn't fit, whether I like it or not.

(Digression: This is one of the reasons fanfiction often troubles me. Some -- definitely not all -- fanfiction writers don't seem to care whether things fit for the character; they are bending the character to their will, which really goes against the whole experience of writing for me. I do, of course, know many fanfiction writers who are trying just as hard to understand the character as they would truly be, rather than as the writer's puppet; I think this could be a great way to appreciate the story at a deep level. And I'm sure that original fiction writers sometimes make puppet characters too, though it wouldn't be as obvious.)

Anyway, before I really start writing The Story, I spend a while writing little scenes that may or may not be meant to fit into the story itself, just to see how the characters would act. Sometimes these devolve into outlines or even just jotted notes that no one but I could decipher, and even I couldn't if I let it go too long. But this is how I figure out who that character is. I usually have a pretty good ball on who the character is, but from time to time in writing these scenes, I do find myself writing a scene that Just Doesn't WORK for some reason -- upon later reflection, it is often because I was putting too much of myself into it, or hadn't quite figured out how that character would think yet. It's so often easy to tell when an author is putting him or herself into the story rather than trying to get into that character's head. (This ties in well with what I was saying in my regular LJ the other day about empathy. You need a strong sense of empathy, I think, to be a writer! "I don't feel this way, but she does and I can see why she does; and it's her story I'm writing so I'd better stick to that." Sometimes a 3rd person narrator can stick in your commentary if you really feel you need it there; it's dangerous, of course, to write a character whose views you don't share because so many people who don't understand this kind of writing process will assume these are all views you share.

"The views in this novel are solely those of their characters and do not necessarily represent the views of their author, publisher, or fans." Hah! Some people would really have trouble with that, wouldn't they? But it's true.

One story in which I did have some trouble with that was Azilie's story. I'm not saying everyone should want to stay juvenile for ever, but at times it seems that way, because that's how Azilie feels. I hope they'll stick around for a while to see her get a little more mature...but her feelings are valid for when she feels them!

And of course it's hard to write a character you can't empathize with at all. I can always empathize with my characters (even my villains) in SOME way. Otherwise I can't make them ring true. But you only need a little tiny bit of understanding (not even something you necessarily agree with) to make a character work, I find.

Hmm, what was the question again? Describing the process of creating characters? Well, that's it. It's all about stumbling across them and then trying to understand them, just like you would another actual person. There are a few choices you get to make about things that don't affect their outlook on life, but...well, actually not all that many. Even something like saying their favorite color or favorite food could say something significant about them. It's just so obvious to me that Azilie likes tart, tangy things like oranges and Mega-Warheads. I mean, you just can't get that wrong or the story won't be true to me. (Another reason why as an author, it will be hard for me to read fanfiction...but of course, readers are free to fill in a certain amount of this. Not to change the character -- at least, I find that disrespectful -- but to flesh out all the details you can't give them. Still, it'd be hard for me to read because I'd "know" that was inaccurate, just because of how my process of creation works.)

Writing Meme Day 8

8. What's your favorite genre to write? To read?

This is a fun question!

I like mixing and bending genres. I've never been that grounded in any genre, either as a reader or a writer. I like wholly realistic fiction (I'm counting identical septuplets as "wholly realistic" in this context; no magic was involved anyway) and I also like magical stories. I've never been a big fan of traditional fantasy -- what I tend to call "medieval fantasy"; though I adored Lord of the Rings because of the themes, I don't feel compelled to go read more stories about worlds like Middle Earth. I'd rather seek out stories that have "ringbearers" like Frodo; that's what really got me about that story. But yeah, as far as fantasy goes, I prefer "contemporary fantasy," where it's set in a world much like ours but that has a slight fantastic twist that serves to emphasize something that can be still be applied to the real world.

But yeah, actually, though I like this question, I dislike genres a lot because it feels like you have to make your story fit into a predefined niche in order to market it. I think that discourages a lot of creativity and twists on stories. That's unfortunate.

A fun mix of genres comes into play in my World's Fair story. I hope I can just call it literary fiction and be done with it, and I do think the literary fiction world would have a place for it. But it has historical fiction, a modern-day segment that feels kind of YA-ish but isn't aimed at that audience in particular, and a sci-fi future in it, and all of it ties together. (Or I hope it will eventually, anyway.) Someone who would like one segment might not like another...but the work of David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas, Ghostwritten) gives me hope in this respect. Cloud Atlas has segments that are completely unrelated, genre-wise. (It makes fun of several different genre stereotypes, actually. I was super-impressed with the author's ability to pull that off!)

Altitude is a story that will be seen as fantasy -- and indeed, it IS contemporary fantasy -- but (like a lot of fantasy, really, especially Pullman's His Dark Materials) it's fantasy that's meant to be a direct commentary on real world issues. Allegory rather than escapism, you know? But yeah, that's true about a lot of fantasy.

As for what I read, I read almost everything. Fiction, nonfiction, literary fiction, popular fiction, political drama, political analysis, science writing, science fiction, history, historical fiction, memoir, psychology, ancient Greek drama, kid lit, et cetera, et cetera.

Anyway, I hope I can write stories that pull at will from whatever genre they wish in the future.

Time to run and catch a bus now.

Writing Meme Day 7

7. Do you listen to music while you write? What kind? Are there any songs you like to relate/apply to your characters?

I usually can't listen to music while I write (with some exceptions I'll get into), but this is still a significant question because I do have music I listen to during breaks in writing that really helps me get back on track. That relates to the second part of the question, because there are definitely songs that I relate to my characters, to the point they become about the characters in my mind rather than whatever they came from to begin with.

And funny this should come up now, because I have a song that I've been listening to on repeat play for over a week now, because it so solidly became the theme song of the story I've been working on lately. But before I get into that, some of my old favorites!

Azilie of Defying Gravity has a definite theme song, Delta Goodrem's Electric Storm, which is about love, which isn't exactly right for Azilie (and for a story about an 11-year-old) but the sentiment still works. If you replace "love" with life in general, or replace the idea of romantic love with the idea of passion for life and self-love (the kind we should all have, not the narcissistic kind) then it totally fits. Plus electric storms are kind of a big deal in the story, too. I didn't hear this song until I had already written the first draft of Azilie's story; then swankivy sent it to me and I went, "OMG. IT'S ABOUT AZILIE." The lyrics and the tune and the imagery and the emotion and determination in the singer's voice and words are all RIGHT ON.

For Celeste in Altitude, it's "Growing Wings," the background music from the Twin Seeds level of the illustrious and highly underappreciated NiGHTS: Into Dreams for the Sega Saturn. (peachpengin might be getting a Wii so I might be playing the sequel. I was waiting for that sequel for OVER A DECADE. Seriously. But in that time I developed self control, so I didn't buy an expensive video game console just for that one game.)

Oh, and the Carlson Septuplets, of course, have the Star Light Zone from the original Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis game. :D When I've played that game in recent years and gotten to that level, I've thought, "Wait, why is this playing here...oh, yeah." Ha ha! (For those who don't know, back before embedded MIDI on web sites was seen as a mortal sin, that was the song I had embedded as the Septs' "theme song" on their web page.)

Two of these are from video game soundtracks, which probably makes sense because that's pretty much the only thing I can listen to while writing. It's not just that it doesn't have lyrics, but also because I can pick out video game tracks that suit the stories I write pretty easily (thanks, Sonic Team!) which can't be said for all lyricless music. But mostly, I write in silence. It's noisy enough inside my head, thanks.

I have other songs that remind me a lot of my stories -- I do soundtracks for them to a certain extent. Defying Gravity in particular has one, though I don't have it handy right now and I figure a lot of it is songs people don't know (though of course the Wicked song "Defying Gravity" itself is part of it, haha) so I won't go and dig it up.

And then there's the story I'm working on now, and the song that has totally latched itself on to it due to a strange blending of thoughts I had early in the formulation of the story. The full version of the song pops up if you do a Google search, so let's see if I can make that work here:

Fireflies by Owl City

Anyway. I only heard this song for the first time a little over two weeks ago, last time I was at karaoke, when my friend Erin put it in. I immediately liked it a lot, to the point I was singing along with it even though I'd never heard it before (a skill you pick up if you do enough karaoke). The next day I found it on Amazon and bought the track for 99 cents.

So, okay, you probably have picked up that my current story project is sort of a therapeutic story for myself to deal with my strong reaction to the Columbine shootings (which has recently come back to my mind because of the book I just read), and (as I think most of you are on my regular journal, too) you may recall that early in my reading of Dave Cullen's book on the subject, I was up in the middle of the night reading Dylan Klebold's journal, which has been posted on the Internet. This (along with the book) left me feeling very shaken up, and when I went to bed I needed some happy music to try to shut off the darker thoughts, so there I was at 2 a.m. listening to Fireflies on repeat a few times before I went to bed.

Everything is surreal at two in the morning, I might add.

And I also have this lenticular postcard I got at Loft in Kyoto that is of a little boy and girl in yukata, standing on a bridge in this field of fireflies, rendered in 3D lenticular glory. I remember buying that card in particular because it reminded me of a wonderful time I had with James and Jeremiah and Roxy toward the end of my time in Japan. (I had written "wonderful day," but I had to change that because earlier that morning, the Red Wings lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. So, I was actually trying not to cry for most of that day.) But, despite the dark sad mood that I was in (and that Jeremiah in particular was in; James was sad too but he's a little calmer about hockey than Jeremiah and me, hah), we had a delightful time going to the Maibara Firefly Festival, where there really were tons of fireflies. It was fantastic and a great JET memory.

And my brain mushed this all up together, and I started thinking about how miserable I was in high school (something that thinking about Columbine always brings back) and how I'm totally a survivor who went on to have a great life, the way so many people who are unhappy nerdy high school kids go on to do.

So thinking about those fireflies became a symbol of being a survivor, at first just of normal high school trials, but then, because it was mushing in with all the stuff I had been reading, including those very gritty primary documents, it became a song for my main character, who literally is a survivor, but it also reminds her of her friend Caleb (= fictional counterpart of Dylan) and who she thought he was and wanted him to be, which of course is a painful issue for her.

So, now this song is the happy song that nevertheless reminds me of Columbine. I know, I know...makes very little sense outside of my own little world. My thoughts are all tangled up. But it's totally working for me making this story into a powerful survivor's story rather than just an angsty mess of a horror story. It could be the end theme for the story, which I'm determined will be a bittersweet but optimistic ending. I couldn't have planned it this way if I'd tried, but I'm very pleased with the effect.

Of course, the next day when I went to look up the lyrics and sing along, when I saw that message at the end -- "Thanks to Dylan for these lyrics" -- I did cry out loud to no one in particular that this was NOT FUNNY, STOP MOCKING ME. (Or maybe it's very funny, take your pick. I did shout aloud. Weird coincidence.)

Anyway, here again are the lyrics, with me bolding and underlining things that really relate to my life right now (oh, did I mention this also relates to my life, completely apart from any morbid stuff I may be reading or writing?)

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I've taken more than one walk around Ann Arbor in the past week where I just listened to this song over and over on repeat play. It churns up all the right thoughts (my own life and my story life).

Sorry, did I digress from the writing meme too much? But it was just such a timely question! I think that answered the question of the way songs relate to my writing very well! And this isn't a unique experience -- Dreams of Absolution from one of the more recent Sonic games (which I never even played, but snowwolfmystic pointed the song out to me) totally inspired an entire story for me. Hah!

Writing Meme Day 6

6. Where are you most comfortable writing? At what time of day? Computer or good ol' pen and paper?

I used to think I was an evening writer, but I think that depends on the story. Different stories have different moods which therefore call for different times of day to write them best. That being said, this can become a cop-out, saying "this isn't a good time for writing," so I don't use that much. Certainly less than I did as a teenager. Right now, it's not about time so much as level of brain torque. If my mind is spinning too much, I can't focus on the story well enough to sustain long-term writing sessions. (I get distracted and usually end up researching stuff for the story or just pondering it instead.) Conversely, if I am too tired, I can't get the energy out there to write. I'm sure I'm not the only person in the world to have this problem!

Like, take this morning when I decided to go swimming so I could get some of the excess energy out. I did and I pushed it and now I feel lethargic. BUT, I'm not going to let this be an excuse! After I write this, I'm off to work on the story. (I did read a couple chapters of one of my research books right when I got back. Relaxing a little bit first did help.)

Also, I very, very much wish I could write stories with pen (well, pencil) and paper. I haven't been able to do that since some time in the early 1990s. Computers just make editing and revising too easy, which has become a big part of how I create/discover my worlds. However, I don't know that this is a good thing, because it's then too easy to spend too much time picking at stuff you've already written rather than just letting it be for a while and going on with the writing.

In class, incidentally, I try to take notes on paper but almost everyone else thinks this is totally archaic. Writing on paper helps me remember, though (kinesthetic memory?) in a way that typing notes into my computer doesn't at all. Still, this only works for taking notes (writing what someone else says) rather than writing stories (writing stuff I created).

I do write outlines with pen and paper. That helps, and I like doing that!

So now I think I'll take my laptop on my bed or the couch, since it's more comfortable, and try writing there.

Writing Meme Day 5

Even though Day 5 was yesterday, if you're following my main journal, you see I was booked the whole day (had to go hang out with Barack and all) so here's Day 5's entry now, and I'll do Day 6 later tonight. :)

5. By age, who is your youngest character? Oldest? How about “youngest” and “oldest” in terms of when you created them?

Hmm. For age of characters in stories, the youngest active or semi-active character would be a seven-way tie, since at one point we "see" Megan, Melissa, Mary, Michelle, Monica, Molly, and Meredith since before they're born. That's definitely the youngest I've ever written about a character. Oldest is harder. I guess if you count minor characters, then we have a lot of parents and stuff of undefined grown-up age (meaning lots grown-upper than I am now). For oldest main characters, some of my more recent stuff is charting new age territory. I actually have one main character who is a thirty-something, which I think is cool. I definitely want to write about kids and for kids because I think that kids age, say, 8-12 are the most likely to pick up a book and be profoundly affected by it. (Most likely definitely DOESN'T mean that adults can't be profoundly affected too, though. But it's less likely to be a building block for their personality and also not going t to get them through the hell that is adolescence. That's always been something I wanted to do for kids, since books helped do that for me...and my recent project is a major effort in that area, coincidentally.) All that being said (with lots of digressions, I know), I DO want to write stories with adults as main characters because I don't want to stunt my growth as a writer or as a person. Adults still have things they need to work on, and both reading and writing can help with that.

Oldest and youngest in terms of creation times? Well, if you want to count Cutey Taffy, she's the oldest, but I'm not still writing about her. Oldest semi-active would be the Carlson Septuplets again. Oldest character in a currently fully-active story project is Azilie, because I came up with that story/character in 1994 and revived it in 2007. I want to work on that again after I finish my current project. Which brings me to youngest character, creation-time-wise: that'd be Caleb Reiniger (I thin that'll be his last name anyway, not totally set yet). Preceeded only briefly by Claire, who still needs a last name. Am spending a lot of mental time with these two these days.

And the pool is open now, so I gotta go. Will be back later. :)

Writing Meme Day 4

4. Tell us about one of your first stories/characters!

Okay. My first recurring character was a girl named Cutey Taffy. That's a first and last name right there, though it sounds like some kind of weird Engrish-derived anime name (at least, I always thought of my character when I heard about the anime Cutie Honey). I don't know where I got the name from; I didn't know where parents got names for kids at the time either. I guess I figured they made them up, if they didn't know of any good ones they already wanted to use based on people they already knew. (I'm named after my great grandma, but I knew not everyone was named after someone.)

I created Cutey in the summer of 1989, when I was at a summer day camp at my school. I remember sitting in the wide-open Montessori room at a low table, with the printed-on-one-side paper that my dad used to donate to the school by the boxload from his work so kids could color on the back. I would take a small stack of it, fold it down the middle, staple it into a book, and then start writing. (If I ran out of pages, I'd write "Part 1" on the cover and make a new book called "Part 2.") I had made an atlas and a cookbook (of recipes I just made up off the top of my head that would never have been palatable) before this, as I recall. My mom showed the atlas to her coworkers at the library, and they put a "Reference" sticker on the cover. I remember being very proud of that, and also somewhat confused because I couldn't find my book on the shelf after it was "processed." (Heh.)

But I digress. "Cutey and the Giant Ice Cream" was the first story I remember writing. Cutey's dad is a chemist in this book, and he finds a way to make this purple ("orchid" was the name of the Crayola marker as I recall) and therefore grape ice cream cone grow to be larger than a house. I don't really remember what happened with the plot after that, though I remember getting frustrated with the story, throwing it in the trash can, and then changing my mind and fishing it back out. Heh.

I wrote tons of other stories about Cutey after that -- she went to Hawaii, she had a Happy Valentines story that I decorated and circulated in my personal "library" that I let other kids at school borrow from, and was then devastated when it never came back to me -- and most importantly, she got hit by tornadoes a lot. I think I wrote "Cutey and the Tornado" a good three or four times over. One version of it is available on my website just for kicks!

There was one story older than the Cutey stories that I can remember writing. This is my first writing memory: I was sitting at the coffee table in our living room one day, writing with red marker on a yellow piece of construction paper. The story was called "The Sun People" or something like that, about a civilization of people who lived on the sun. My dad came by and I showed it to him. I remember him seeming very amused (I was very proud) and saying "So you're a science fiction writer, huh?" (My dad is a big sci-fi fan.) I was very confused and didn't understand the notion of genres, or what the heck sci-fi even was, but this seemed like a good thing because it amused my daddy.

So, I think you can tell from this entry that my parents were all-around supportive of my writing (even if in high school I'm pretty sure my mom worried that I did too much of it at the expense of hanging out with other kids and socializing). So hey, this entry made me feel happy to write. :)

Oh! And I think it's also worth noting that the Carlson Septuplets originated as the Carlson Triplets (Megan, Melissa, and Mary) who were characters I drew (before writing about them) as some triplets who would appear in the Cutey Taffy universe, which I was still writing about at age 12 (October 1994). That's a pretty long time to focus on one character's universe, considering how much one grows between second and seventh grade. I wonder if this says something good or bad about me. Hah.

(I'm reading a lot of psychoanalysis these days, and writing a main character who tries to psychoanalyze herself, so don't mind me! I'm very much in Claire's mindset right now. She's self-conscious about her fantasy life, and tries to make it clear to people who are interested that SHE at least knew it wasn't real. Haha, sorry, my characters are annoyed that I'm writing this rather than writing about them, so they had to interject that. Hee...writers will understand.)

Writing Meme Day 3

3. How do you come up with names, for characters (and for places if you're writing about fictional places)?

Hmm. I haven't given this much thought as an overall issue, probably because it depends on the story. Fantastic stories have different rules than realistic ones, for starters. Altitude is fantastic, too, but I use a mix of slightly exotic names and names we'd easily recognize. Celeste, for instance. Her name could seem like one that's just designed to fit the starry mystical nature of the story and appeal to fans of celestial magical girl stuff, but actually, her dad actively chose the name because of its meaning, because it fits in with his spiritual beliefs. But it might not seem that way at first. It's actually the closest English approximation of what her name would actually be. I use normal English names for the main characters because I want their culture to seem like "home" rather than be foreign to the reader, compared to some other cultures we come across later, where I make up names that seem more foreign. I try to make some sound like ordinary people's names while others sound like important or royal names or the like. HOW I do that...well, that I can't answer. I play with sounds!

Synesthesia also influences the names I pick for characters. Because each letter has a color (and some are more vivid than others), the colors have to suit the character's personality. Azilie's name has a Z, which is a vivid orange -- and in this case, Z even has a flavor to me (citrus orangey; I don't think that's primary synesthesia going on in brain as much as association of the orange letter to the orange fruit, but the zzzzz sound is definitely citrus). Azilie's very much associated with the color orange to me, so the name suits her. Of course, I came up with that name for her at age 12 or thereabouts, but I'm pretty sure I've always done it this way, not that I remember my exact thought process from 1994.

In the end, it's really a question of the feel, and that's hard to explain in a concrete way. Some names just fit, and some clearly don't.

I'm also having a problem right now in a very realistic story, in which I have to pick names to represent characters who are obviously very closely based on real people (but who are NOT meant to represent them exactly; they just play very similar roles, and then I make up details to suit my story, since I can't know the real people and I'm not writing a biography). The problem is that one of the names I picked for one of these characters -- that really clicked in my mind for the character version -- is the name of one of his real life inspiration's victims. Once I realized that, I knew I couldn't use the name no matter that it already fit him in my head. That's been hard to change, but it's outweighed by the respect with which I want to treat this issue. Even if the victim's family will never read this story, I need to change the name. I guess I have to play little mind games with myself in order to handle a subject like this.

And now that I've done my Writing Meme for the day, it's back to the story! Reading relevant background material, or writing the fiction, or working on my journal that helps me sort out what I need to address. These are all parts of this story process for me.

Writing Meme Day 2

Writing question of the day! Exciting. And I'm officially done with classes now! Yay!

2. How many characters do you have? Do you prefer males or females?

Oh, who came up with this question? I can't imagine that any writer serious enough to be doing this meme has a small enough number of characters that she can count them. Does this include major characters? Minor and one-time characters? Characters I've already imagined but haven't yet written? Characters I wrote before or after a certain point in my life? I don't think I can even count just my protagonists. I mean, do just protagonists I've invested a lot of time in count? Should I count protagonists that I've written for class assignment stories but that I never did anything with after the class ended?

I've often wished I could see before my eyes a Wikipedia-like list of all the characters and stories in my brain, but alas, I can't reproduce that for you here.

So for part 1 of this question, the answer is gonna have to be "a lot."

Part 2 is easier, but let's define "prefer" first. I definitely write about females more, but that's not because I "like" it better; it's just the perspective that's easier and more natural for me, for obvious reasons. Sometimes I write about guys as though they're exactly like girls, because part of me thinks that gender differences are overblown and I'm sure there are males out there who think essentially the same way as I do (barring purely individualized differences). Then another part of my brain thinks, "Gee, male brains could be TOTALLY DIFFERENT from mine in certain ways and I wouldn't know because I haven't ever used one to think." I believe the truth is between those two extremes and takes into consideration that men and women and boys and girls are ALL INDIVIDUALS, so some men will think in what is considered a more stereotypically "feminine" way, while some women think more masculinely.

So, though my protagonists thus far have almost all been female -- 100% of them have been for my major works -- I have tried some male protagonists. Going off what I just said, these male characters tend to be people who I believe WOULD be more feminine in their thought processes, so I feel comfortable writing them.

I think the first time I wrote a male main character was in college, when I wrote about this introverted and rather depressed boy who was telepathic.

I actually have two new stories I'm working on, which I think will be longish short stories, which is new for me. Both sprang into my head over the course of the semester and I'm excited that I'll have some time to work on them now! And both stories have important male characters. This is a challenge for me.

In one of them, an asexual male is the main character. I feel like people are so clueless about asexuality that faulting a female for writing a male character is going to be lower on the concern list. I obviously won't claim that he's representative of males in general, either, so I have some leeway!

In another one, the main POV character is a female, but a guy who's NOT noteworthily feminine is going to be a major central character (possibly a second POV character) too. There will be other difficulties to writing his character, though, since he's also severely mentally distressed. And then there will be some other male characters I'll have to get down pretty well, but again, they're unusual types so it's not like any person with a Y chromosome will be able to immediately pick out what I get right or wrong.

I'm excited about this challenge and chance to grow as a writer!

But yeah, most of my main characters are female; in some of my stories, the casts are almost exclusively female. (Not so much anymore, but growing up, they were. I remember it being kind of cool to include boys on the team in The Septuplet Hockey League. Ha ha!)