Today I am excited to welcome author Jonathan Gould to Library Girl Reads & Reviews as part of the Discover Fantasy Tour. Jonathan is touring the webs in July along with David M. Brown and Jeremy Rodden. Check out discoverfantasy.com for information on all the authors, their books, and the tour stops. Take it away Jonathan...
I’m really excited to be here on the first day of this fantastic “Discover Fantasy” tour. I’m going to start off all gushy by thanking the amazing Donna Brown for organising this, and also my two fellow tourists, David Brown and Jeremy Rodden. And, of course, I want to thank Angela here at Library Girl Reads for participating – this is a great place for me to be starting this tour.
I’m going to be having fun today, because I’ve been asked to do a post about characters, and I reckon characters are the most fun there is about writing. In fact, when I plan out my stories, the characters are often the very first thing I’ll begin thinking about. True, I like to have some idea of the central idea behind the story, and some sense of where the plot is meant to go, but most of my attention is focused on the characters.
Characters, to me, are the best part about storytelling. As a reader, characters make or break the story. And as a writer, characters are where I put most of my effort. They’re what gives a story its colour and its lightness and shade. To some degree, my writing technique is to come up with a starting situation, throw in a bunch of characters, and see what happens. The characters will be the ones to decide.
My most recent novel, Magnus Opum, is a good example of this approach. From the very start, the intention was always to fill it with a gallery of strange and wonderful characters. I wanted it to be like a big epic fantasy, but one that’s slightly skewed. Instead of the usual collection of elves and dwarves and wizards and goblins that you see in most fantasy, I wanted to create a bunch of totally new characters. True, some of them bear more than a passing resemblance to those elves and goblins, but I like to think I put my own spin on those as well.
Even though I began with the most basic idea for the story, it was the characters that presented themselves well before I knew much about the details of the plot. For example, I knew that early on my, main character, Magnus, had to receive some disturbing news that would set him off on his adventure, but how was I to break it for him? That’s when I had the idea for the Doosies, the race of incorrigible gossips who travel the land spreading stories and rumours. And once I’d thought up the Doosies, I realised there were a heap of other places they could fit into the story, while also allowing me to have a bit of fun satirising the news media. Then, once Magnus sets off on his journey, he needs to encounter some peril straight away, but what could that be? I needed another character, or set of characters, but not the sort you’d expect. The Plergle-Brots fitted the bill perfectly. What is a Plergle-Brot? I guess you’d better read the book to find out.
And we’re only talking about the first few chapters here. We haven’t even begun talking about the Cherines and the Glurgs and the Blerchherchh and the Pharsheeth and the Great Oponium. Not to mention the seldom seen but much discussed diperagoff, although as it is seldom seen, I guess there’s not much to discuss. As you can probably tell, I had a lot of fun not only coming up with characters but also coming up with names for them.
I could go on and on here but I guess I’d better stop. How effective my new collection of characters is will be something for readers to decide. If, in 100 years’ time, Kertoobis and Doosies and all the others have found a place beside the dragons and witches of classical fantasy, then I guess we’ll know the answer.
About the Author:
Jonathan Gould has lived in Melbourne, Australia all his life, except when he hasn’t. He has written comedy sketches for both the theatre and radio, as well as several published children’s books for the educational market.
He likes to refer to his stories as dag-lit because they don’t easily fit into recognisable genres (dag is Australian slang for a person who is unfashionable and doesn’t follow the crowd – but in an amusing and fun way). You might think of them as comic fantasies, or modern fairytales for the young and the young-at-heart.
Over the years, his writing has been compared to Douglas Adams, Monty Python, A.A. Milne, Lewis Carroll, the Goons, Dr Seuss and even Enid Blyton (in a good way).
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