I’ve been coming up with fantasy stories for as long as I can remember. Being an avid reader, I always find myself inspired by the world-building of the authors I admire, and it only made sense for me to try my own hand at it after so much exposure. When I was little, I kept a journal on my bedside table to write down names and details of specific narratives that I was working on in my head, picking a story as I got into bed each night to fall asleep creating. Most never made it past that stage, although somewhere among boxes of items from my childhood those notebooks are still languishing.
A select few were deemed worthy enough to see some time in a word processor. Before I even learned how to properly type (perhaps I should say quickly type—I still shun the “home position”), I was picking out my own clunky, disjointed fiction, wasting ink printing out copies of my half-finished books just to feel the weight of the pages in my hands, enough to pretend that I was a real author.
As I got older, my nightly fantasies took on a distinctively sexual tone. This for me has always been a better outlet than porn or reading erotica—putting encounters together piece by piece, custom fit to whatever best suits my state of mind at the moment. In high school, friends introduced me to fan fiction, and the allure was too good to resist. Pre-fabricated characters that I already knew and loved, that could be recombined and altered to tell any story. A small group of us furtively emailed each other what we’d written, raising our eyebrows at one another the next day as we showed up for school, all of us secretly enjoying the adventures we vicariously lived through each other’s fantasies.
I’ve always found my ability to develop three-dimensional characters to be somewhat lacking. In ninth grade for a short story assignment in my English class, I deliberately wrote a post-apocalyptic romance, trying to endow the cast with as much personality as possible in the course of the twenty short pages (the teacher had set the minimum requirement at four—whoops). And then, at the end, I killed one of them off. I went around asking people I knew to read it, questioning them afterwards if they had cried, if it had upset them. I was frustrated that they didn’t seem to find in it the same devastation that had leveled me time and time again. Authors like Rowling, Pullman, and Maas had managed to take me by the hand and guide me through a world along with people that felt so real, that I fell in love with despite myself. And when some of those characters died (I feel I’m personally cursed to have only my favorite minor characters meet untimely ends), it was a particular kind of heart-wrenching, enough to make me frustrated and upset but also so cathartically moved.
I think I may have finally found the key to writing characters I feel I can actually stand by. Half of it has been getting old enough to develop the nuance I need to do it. But the other half has been working long and hard at putting together people I actually like, thinking about them as individuals outside of the arcs of the narrative. The sex is a cinch. But the dialogue and plot have become exceptionally easier to write now that I have fallen in love with my own characters for the first time. I find myself wanting to figure out what Riley’s home life is like, why Tristan can seem like such an aloof jerk, and what makes Damon tick. I have found a home in Relic—one that I hope readers will want to return to again and again. Because mark my word: there is so much there left to discover.