Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Robin Muses About Redford and Character Making

Now that a week has passed since Blood Howl's release, I thought I'd take the time to talk a little about the character of Redford Reed. I like babbling about characters and inspirations, so you get to read it!

Obviously the following will contain massive spoilers for Blood Howl:

Alex and I are character makers. Some authors are world builders, some are plotters, some are detail driven. We get our book ideas from characters first - and believe me when I say that we have literally dozens of characters living inside our thoughts, and we make up characters based on the smallest idea. Sometimes it gets kind of ridiculous when Alex says, "I'm playing a flash game about zombies and having to barricade your town", and my brain goes HEY I CAN FIND A CHARACTER IDEA IN THAT. That's probably why I have dozens of characters. Life is hard.

Blood Howl - and any of our further books - came from us having two characters and decided to put them together to see how funny it would be. Before we started writing Blood Howl, our favorite past-time (and still is, between writing the next book) was to crash two characters together, write them, and see if they work. Sometimes they don't, and sometimes they really, really do.

Jed and Redford were one of those they really work pairings. Impossibly, because one is a badass, emotionally repressed mercenary and one is a shut-in, chronically worried werewolf.

After creating the personality of the character, I like to find their appearance. Sometimes it comes with character - Redford, obviously, being a shut-in werewolf, has scars and is quite pale because he never got any sunlight - but after that, I usually cruise around websites to find someone that matches the characters' appearance in my head. Sort of like I'm playing 'What Would The Casting For This Book Movie Be'. Sometimes I can find a match, sometimes I can't.

With Redford, I found Jeremy Renner. I adore Jeremy Renner, and have done so for some time now, but when finding this I didn't actually know who he was. He is now quite well-known (which is very well deserved and I'm going to stop blabbing about my love for Jeremy Renner now, promise), but it was this appearance of his in a CSI episode that made me go IT'S REDFORD!

That's pretty much Redford. He's not stunningly, classically handsome. If you passed him in a street, you probably wouldn't look twice. He's pale, has bags under his eyes, doesn't really know what to do with his hair so he just hacks it with scissors when it gets too long, and has a permanent worried look on his face.

There is a charm to his face, though. He has gentle features. Renner can do puppy eyes like nobody's business (okay, seriously stopping now) (but he's an amazing actor and you should check out his movies). He has that kind of ragged, lost look that kind of makes you want to take him home and feed him.

But, before all of this appearance finding, the character had to come from somewhere, right?

I watched this amazing, heart-breaking documentary. It was about feral children - for those of you who don't know what feral children are, they are children that have been so abused, so massively isolated, that they simply don't know how to act human. There are many classic examples of a feral child, like Peter Pan, like Tarzan, but in reality these kids are not flying, mischievous children or mysteriously well-groomed men who live in the jungle.

One of the most famous cases is a girl named Genie. She spent the first thirteen years of her life locked in a single room by her father. I'll let Wikipedia sum those thirteen years up for me:

During the day, she was tied to a child's toilet in diapers; some nights, when she hadn't been completely forgotten, she was bound in a sleeping bag and placed in an enclosed crib with a cover made of metal screening. Indications are that Genie's father beat her with a large stick if she vocalized, and he barked and growled at her like a dog in order to keep her quiet. He also rarely allowed his wife and son to leave the house or even to speak, and he expressly forbade them to speak to Genie. By the age of 13, Genie was almost entirely mute, commanding a vocabulary of about 20 words and a few short phrases (nearly all negative, such as "stop it" and "no more").

Horrifying, right? When Genie was rescued, she couldn't walk properly, couldn't talk, didn't react well to people touching her, because she'd been isolated during the most important of her developmental years. Watching that documentary broke my heart.

Now, obviously feral children are an incredibly sad thing, and something I didn't actually want to write about in such harsh detail. I'm kind of a baby and it would just make me really sad all the time to write a character like that, and I'd feel like scum if I wrote that character into a romance novel, because such a character would not be mentally developed enough to give any kind of consent.

However, psychology is something that fascinates me. And thus the idea of Redford was born. Redford is not nearly as bad a case as Genie, obviously, but after his parents died when he was five, he was raised mostly in isolation. He was not allowed to go outside and play with the other kids (because his grandmother feared that he, as a werewolf, would hurt them), he was not allowed to go to the store with her, she home-schooled him, locked him in the basements on full moons, and held little love for him. Because I needed Redford to mentally be on par with a normal adult man, though, I had to give him that contact with her, so that he could learn to speak, read, walk, and connect emotionally.

But he knows nearly nothing about the outside world. Everything he knows about it came from his grandmother's teachings, and watching the world pass by outside through the windows. When Redford's grandmother died when he was eighteen, the only contact he made with the outside world was to go to the local supermarket once a month (while not knowing, really, how to comprehend it) and send off utility bills with the thankfully sizable amount of money his grandmother left him. But, as we saw in Blood Howl, he has no clue what basketball is, how to kiss, what innuendo is, how to be around large crowds of people, what beer tastes like, what the local pub down the road is like - things that most of us take for granted.

That's Redford in a nutshell - or, at least, where his inspiration came from. Obviously a personality comes from there. Redford is shy, anxious in large crowds, is a bookworm because that was his childhood hobby, and he's eternally curious about things that he doesn't know. His narration is a little stilted, like his speech, and his sentences tend to be short rather than long and descriptive.

By the end of Blood Howl, of course, he's grown a bit more confident. Jed has taught him how to fight a little, has shown him a world outside of his rotting, lonely house, and Redford begins to become a real boy, instead of the shadow that he was living as.

And that has been my blab about Redford Reed. Tune in sometime soon to hear Alex's blab about Jed!

- Robin

1 comment:

  1. I loved Red and his emotional growth in this book.
    He begins as a child totally in the grip of events that surround him, and becomes a man, not entirely indipendent yet, but concious of his desires and possibilites, and of his love and loyalty for Jed.
    I loved another thing of him that I didn't found in other Urban Fantasy books.
    He's a werwolf. But not an Alpha! And yet, he's one of the hero. I love that, because I'm tired of all this big alpha guys, who only know how to control all the people they have around. Or they wish.
    Red is a werewolf, and he's terrified by this, because honestly, it IS a terrific thing! How could he not be scared!? He's grown, without his parents, in a house where his Grandmà considered him a danger for the others, and he has this idea of himself so radicated in his brain that even after the death of the woman, he continued to imprison himself in a cage every full moon night, shut himself in a house full of painful memories for all the other days! Alone, outside of a world that he doesn't know,
    And yet, after meeting Jed, he found the strenght to improve himself, to become a better man, for himself and for the man he loves.
    May be he is a minor, fearful wolf, but I found in him a strenght that so many Alpha can only dream about!
    So, in the end of all this blabbering, I lost the thought that I wanted to express....
    I think it was something like... I loved this book! And I loved Redford!!!
    And I'm painfully waiting for the next!!
    Hugs from an italian fan!!!