Travel and Characters

I’ve been backpacking for over seven months now through Central and South America, and whilst by and large the backpacker scene can be fairly samey, with the same 5-6 characters recurring, the most memorable people I have met have been when I’ve been taken off the beaten track.

When I write, I try and draw inspiration from real personalities and circumstances. I find that when I report on them I do so with more clarity and its reflected in the colour of my writing. That being said, it’s hard to find inspiration from in my case a call centre environment or sales team.

My travels, meanwhile have revealed to me a whole collection of new faces, and cultures that I’ll draw on for future projects. All too often, writers fall into the stereotypical trap of copy-pasting characters across stories: the misunderstood, confused teenager who wants to be noticed, the overworked detective down and out on his luck with a drinking problem, the middle aged housewife that craves adventure; the 30 something singleton who keeps falling for the bad boy – just because they are convenient and resonate with people, shouldn’t give the writer a free license to use them as a lazy reference.

I enjoy reading about new characters, fresh and original – characters that are a bit off the wall and unpredictable. Of course, there needs to be some semblance of the reader in them, to be carried along with the characters story, but I think that is ultimately down to the writer and how skilled he is with his craft. As mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been devouring books lately and the good thing about backpacker hostels is that, by and large, they have excellent free (usually) resources such as book exchanges.

Seems like the same characters are hanging out in bookshelves all around South America. Detectives and Police officers. If this is reflective of the book market in general, then I guess this is what current demand dictates and the writers are capitalising on it. Or perhaps backpackers are more inclined to read thrill a minute, action page turners hence the saturation of these books on the hostel shelves. Either way, it does get very repetitive. I love a twist in a genre, and must confess to liking the TV shows Breaking Bad and Dexter with the anti-hero element.

I need to seek out books like that to provoke some original ideas of my own. Thinking outside the box.

The trouble is, that I get so many ideas and immediately want to start a new project that I’m tempted to stall the one I’m currently working on. For example, I’m almost at the end of my second book but desperate to start my third because I love the main character. I’m trying to remind my brain to hold off on the ideas spawning in my head until I give birth to my current story. That being said, I love the process of committing my ideas to paper and seeing how well I managed to capture them. They don’t always turn out as I hoped, but the fun is in trying.

At the start of my trip, a friend asked me if I was going to keep a diary or blog and document my travels. I considered it for a while, before deciding not to. I had read travel books in the past, and to be honest they bored me. There is only so much you can write about before repeating yourself. It is a long slog of bus journeys, flat tyres, dorm beds and sleepless nights. I think everyone can relate to that at some point in their life. But the characters are what makes it fun, and those didn’t need to be written down.

They’re tucked neatly away in my head waiting to take centre stage in a future novel.

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