As a fiction writer, I’ve never been especially inspired by characters. I know that that sounds awful. I simply don’t write “character-driven” fiction, and, much to my discontent, I don’t ever find myself “possessed” by a character who simply begs to have his or her story told. When I’m lucky enough to find inspiration for a story, it generally comes from ideas and/or circumstances.
Which is one reason why I was captivated by Gabriel Packard’s interview with Peter Carey in the new (March) issue of The Writer. Here’s some of Carey’s response to Packard’s question, “What is the process of writing a novel like for you?”:
“When I’ve finished a novel, I always feel so empty I think I’ll never have another idea. So when I have an idea, a single idea, I feel blessed….I’ll never ever start with characters. They are there to be discovered. Indeed the greatest pleasure, at the end of the novel, is to have made characters who are multidimensional and complicated.”
Ah, there’s the rub. You still need to come up with characters who are multidimensional and complicated! The ideas alone can’t sustain the fiction!
P.S. Carey’s new novel, Parrot & Olivier in America, sounds fantastic (and I’m not just saying that because I have a doctoral degree in modern French history and once took an entire class on Alexis de Tocqueville!). It goes to the top of my tbr list.