A while back, I blogged about what I call ‘the Writer Phenomenon’, including where writers subconsciously use ideas of their world around them to shape their stories – it’s that idea that a story is never new.
I have no objection to this. If I found that a reader of my stories was inspired by a character of mine to (consciously or not) replicate them into a story of their own, I would beam.
However, my Writer Phenomenon has come to bite me. I picked up my favourite Jacqueline Wilson book yesterday (read so often it has a crease in the spine), to read through just because I could: Love Lessons. It’s quick and quirky, just as most Wilson books are, with a homeschoolled protagonist not fitting into her first school, but finding friendship in unusual places. And, whilst it’s a tad unrealistic (one page she’s wondering what it’s like to “fall so headily, instantly in love”; two or three chapters later she is able to describe the love interest in romantic, pictorial detail), it, on the other hand, makes perfect sense of that sudden, unrelenting love that takes siege of one.
So far so good. Until I was lying in bed trying to get to sleep and thinking about the characters. That’s when it hit me. I had lifted one of Triangle’s love interests almost straight from the pages. I must have been reading Love Lessons at one point when I began thinking about Triangle. Indeed, I know I was inspired to give Keith a goatee because the man in Wilson’s book did.
I guess it was just logical that he had dark, curly hair, too. And brown eyes “the colour of field-mud”, according to my protagonist.
But, as I thought about it last night, I realised something that I hadn’t bargained for. Keith. That is, the name. At first, it sounds strange that I didn’t recognise that my protagonist shared his name, too, but Wilson’s character uses the nickname Rax, from his surname ‘Raxberry’, and this is what the protagonist calls him for most of the book.
This is my confession: I may well have stolen her character and inserted him into my novel.
Of course, it’s not that simple. My Keith is, effectively, the bad guy, not sweet like young Rax – he has a sharp temper and does not forgive easily without dwelling on things he cannot change. In one section of the first draft, he becomes obsessive…
I don’t think my Keith would have found Wilson’s Keith very good company. He would remind him of his rival too much. They don’t share the same interests or fashion sense; they are heaps different in motive and personality. They just happen to share a first name and a dark goatee.
Still, my subconscious was a little cruel in being so exact, and it leaves me with the dilemma of whether to alter a character I have had formed in my conscious mind for over three years. Of course they are not the same person – and I continue to protest that – but the similarities are currently causing me annoyance. Hmm, I’ll keep thinking on the matter.
Sometimes I’m just too good.
Until next time. Alex.