Lily Iona MacKenzie's Blog for Writers & Readers


Where do characters come from?

Readers who aren’t writers themselves tend to think that most aspects of a novel come directly from an author’s imagination. Some novels do arrive in that fashion, but most don’t. These readers don’t understand how characters can appear and then evolve during a narrative, learning and growing through their actions and the resulting events that unfold.

While writing Freefall: A Divine Comedy, I had a dream that led to the creation of a new character for the novel. In the dream, I was getting to know an amazing woman who seemed middle eastern. Her name was something like Carmine, and she was a visual artist, overflowing with life and ideas and sexual appetite. In her twenties, her darker skin color added to her attractiveness. Men buzzed around her, drawn to more than her physical beauty. She spoke multiple languages fluently. She also was physically very strong, able to do martial arts and flip a man easily. In many respects, she was my ideal woman!

Immediately after I recorded the dream in my journal, I realized she was the prototype for a new character I wanted to create for Freefall, one whose temperament reminded me of Carmen, from the opera of the same name: passionate and explosive. Alive! However, my character has the same name as my dream woman, Carmine. The crimson pigment that carmine describes also captures fully her overall deep feeling characteristics. And in the process of writing, I discover she’s a Gypsy, or Roma, as she prefers to be called.

Carmine ends up having a strong role in the last third of Freefall. A singer and flamenco dancer, she helps Tillie Bloom and her three former friends, who are having a reunion in Venice, Italy, to create the simulated Carnivale that the last section of the book features. In fact, she and her group form the center of this event, providing the music and party atmosphere that dominates.

In a way, Carmine is a prototype of the main character in another novel of mine, Curva Peligrosa, a woman over six-foot-tall whose lusty personality dominates the narrative. Clearly, this vibrant female has been hanging around in my psyche for some time. It has been important to me at some level to produce female characters that not only make their mark in a world dominated largely by men but also leave a lasting impression, becoming models for those who read these books.




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