Each month, we ask one distinguished author or illustrator to write an original post that reveals insights about their process and craft. Enjoy!
“The Author-Character Connection“
by Ingrid Law
One of the wonderful things about stories is their ability to allow us to explore and make believe. Whether as a reader or a writer, stories give us the chance to try on different hats. To see things from a new or different perspective. Or to share a bit of our own perspective with others.
Sometimes, readers ask me if I am anything like any of the characters in my novel, Savvy. I tell them that I think it is impossible not to put at least a teeny, tiny bit of yourself into nearly every character. Mostly, because we know ourselves better than we know anyone else. So which traits do I share with my characters? Well …
I’m certainly not perfect, like Momma. But what mother doesn’t wish she could be? Being a mother is one of the hardest jobs there is. There are so many times when we wonder if we are doing the right thing, wonder if we are making the right choices for our families and children. But even the momma in Savvy can make “perfectly awful mistakes,” because, in the end, she is fully human, too.
Like Lill, I sometimes feel too big and too small at the same time. And I like to hide sometimes like Samson. While I could never fit beneath a pile of laundry or in a cupboard like him, I am certainly prone to being reclusive. Yet, I feel I can come out of my quiet world if someone else needs a helping hand or a little added strength.
Like Lester, my shoulders tend to jump and twitch close to my ears when I get nervous. In fact, knowing this about myself, I gave Lester this trait of mine quite specifically. I hoped that, by giving my nervous twitch to Lester, I might be freed from it myself. Unfortunately, my plan didn’t work out the way I’d hoped. But it did give me a way to laugh about it.
And finally, there is Mibs, the book’s main character and narrator. One of the most important connections between me and Mississippi Beaumont stemmed from the actual process of writing Savvy. As I began to write the book, I kept having to consciously chase away the voices of doubt and criticism that jangled inside my head. Every time I had a thought that said, “Pink Bibles and buses? No one will go for that,” or “Maybe this vocabulary is too odd,” or any other similar, creativity-killing notion, I worked hard to listen to my own voice and just keep writing. It became a kind of practice to respect the story as it came to me and not let those voices of uncertainty cloud my judgment. Without really thinking about the connection, I gave this very same challenge to Mibs. Throughout Savvy, Mibs quite literally struggles to weed out the voices of other people inside her head and, in the end, learns to listen to her own voice. So, while in many ways Mibs Beaumont and I are very different, in this one, most important way, we are the same…
Photo provided by Ingrid Law, 2009
That, and we both share a love for the little soaps found in roadside motels (and even posh hotels). I still bring them home with me whenever I travel. I’ve got a whole drawer full! Wouldn’t Mibs be envious? There’s just enough of me in her that I happen to know she would be.
An original article by author Ingrid Law.