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Writing “Where Dreams are Realised”: Behind-the-Scenes Part 2 (Characters)

The process of coming up with the characters for Where Dreams are Realised was the biggest how-not-to lesson for me. My characters were initially very stereotypical that even I was annoyed with them. Like, I can see where you’re coming from but you are just the most infuriating people I’ve had the displeasure of imagining. Most of them spent a lot of time talking over each other and didn’t really experience any growth. I ended up writing most of the characters by the seat of my pants, which turned out to be at least better than the first draft. For example, Jensen was initially meant to be a preachy idealist on crack – the type that yells endlessly about how things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be but doesn’t actually do anything to change the way things are. I didn’t write that down in so many words, but I thought it. Here’s what one of my drafts looked like:

Hopefully, she came off better in the chapters that I posted.

Jensen was a very difficult character for me to write because her personality is very similar, but also very different from my own. A lot of her responses became “how Hamizah would react” and not “how Jensen would react”. I ended up making a lot of changes to her character in an effort to separate myself from her. For example, she was initially meant to be someone who spoke her mind whenever she saw fit to do so. That lead to a lot of her dialogue being wordy and verbose – because I am wordy and verbose. While that may be realistic, I didn’t feel like it made for a good narrative, so I cut it out from the chapters that I posted. There are remnants of this in later chapters, but I’m not going to subject you to the torture of reading them.

Next, there’s Yuka. She started off as someone who was naive, sheltered and idealistic. A traumatic incident that happened changed her and made her cynical. I don’t think that’s realistic. I’ve never met anyone over the age of fifteen that had been brought up in the age of the internet that is as naive as Yuka was supposed to be. However, I have met a lot of people who are aware of issues in the world but adopt the “it won’t happen to me” mentality so I tried to portray Yuka closer to that.

I chose this name for her because (a) I thought it was a cute name, and (b) I wanted to use the meaning of the name as foreshadowing. According to one of those name-name meaning websites I visited, one of the definitions of Yuka is “to have existed”. I can’t find the website anymore, so I can’t verify if that is accurate.

Here’s the thought process behind the other characters’ names:

Jensen, Lee and Miyuki, I just picked at random. Okay not really at random. I used to watch Supernatural, Pushing Daisies, and Lucky Star. As far as the meaning of the names having plot relevance, they were picked at random. I didn’t really put any thought into these two because the story was never meant to be about them. It is mentioned in the first and second chapter that Jensen, Yuka and Kame have a history of activism. It isn’t shown in what I posted, but I planned for Yuka and Kame to be the activists and Jensen to be the one hanging around to provide moral support. At that point in her life, the state of the amusement park didn’t affect her either way so she never bothered to do anything about it until Yuka encouraged her to. I planned for her to eventually realise that issues like that affect her even if indirectly and finally act on her own. Even though she’s the protagonist, she was always going to play a supporting role in the story.

On the other hand, Lee’s character development takes place prior to the events in the story, and also “off-screen”. Honestly, I just hadn’t really thought about how to write about him so I was planning to just go with the flow. “Miyuki” is a little similar to “Yuka” and it’s pretty so I just chose it. She’s also not a central character so I didn’t bother with her name meaning.

According to this website, Kame means “tortoise (symbol for long life)”. I chose this name because it was somewhat similar to “Yuka”, and because it contrasted with Yuka’s supposed meaning (refer to three paragraphs above). Yuka was supposed to be killed off while Kame was supposed to keep living. Kame cares slightly less about activism compared to Yuka, and Yuka’s death was meant to encouraged her to fight harder for it.

Last but not least, there’s Killian. Yes, I also watched Once Upon a Time. Killian means “strife”, which means “conflict”. This isn’t shown in the three chapters, but Killian was meant to be someone who is conflicted between trying to survive till the next day and fighting for improvements. Killian, for most of his life, grew up with his father barely being able to make ends meet. I hadn’t decided whether his mother would be in the picture or not. Now that he has a job, he is able to help his father out. However, he has to choose between continuing to live the life he’s always had and trying to make his life slightly better at the risk of making it a lot worse.

 

For the story I’m writing right now, I’m spending more time on establishing the personalities of the characters before throwing them into the situation. That way, it’s a lot less messy for me to deal with. Don’t do what I did. Don’t only think of 5 personality/physical traits of your character and assume that it will be okay. At least, don’t do it if you’re relatively new to writing.

It does get me sad that this story didn’t work out because when I first started writing it, it was a story I so badly wanted to tell. After having to deal with the messes I created for myself and overall being very confused, I decided to drop it indefinitely. I want to think that this will be a mistake I’ll never make again, but honestly I don’t know. Maybe when I can finally separate myself from how upsetting this experience was, I can try telling this story in another way.

I know this blog post was a bit of a mess. At the moment, my brain is a bit of a mess. Here’s to hoping that it’ll be less of a mess tomorrow.

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