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Welcome to the Mind of Everyn Kildare:

Adventures in Insomnia

The Evolution of Mouse: Making a Character Part I - Introductions

The Evolution of Mouse: Making A Character Part 1 Introductions by Everyn Kildare Character Interview

Part I - Introductions

There is a time in the lives of most artistic individuals when they begin to question the merit of their own beloved work. It leaves them feeling lost, or even worse, trapped in a seemingly impenetrable loop of indecision. Some call it writer’s block; some call it self-doubt. Sometimes it’s a lingering depression or a series of complicated life events that make creativity shrivel up like an old prune left forgotten in the stagnant summer heat…

For me, it was a good mixture of all of the above — a thick and viscous muck of clouded thoughts I’d struggled to find my way out of for an increasingly long time. The block had claimed me for days… then stretched to months… then years. The longer it lasted, the more firmly its hold on me became, until the block felt permanent and unbreakable. It sapped my energy, my willpower, and my ambition, until all that remained was a hollow shell of my former self.

Somewhere in the void of my mind there is a place that is simultaneously both empty and overly full. Crumbling monuments of ivy and stone punctuate an endless, shifting landscape. Waterfalls cascade into an abyss of stars, and a lone, crudely painted desk with a mismatched chair rests on a floating platform in the center. From this ephemeral space my consciousness spits out shaded imagery, filling the cracks that expand and contract from one moment to the next.

Into this solitary expanse I wander, searching hopelessly for inspiration, grasping onto random thoughts like filtering sand through shaky fingers. I long desperately to write. I need the escape from my melancholy musings just as surely as I need air to breathe. Thus, I retreat here to this odd and familiar platform, hoping to find the words that have eluded me for so damn long.

A figure manifests within — a shimmer, a haze; Mouse emerges into this imaginary world like the sudden burst of an opalescent bubble in the sunlight. He's short and thin as a rail, possessing a wild mop of auburn hair, slightly pointed ears, and large, round eyes as dark as coal. He has expressive, bushy eyebrows and the hint of a cunning little smirk as he watches me, watching him.

“Can you pass me a mirror?” he asks, his voice gravelly and raw from its very first use.

I’m disappointed that his opening words contain only concern and interest in himself, and I hope this isn’t a sad portend of things to come. Personality flaws in a character are inevitable and the very nature of his creation is narcissistic. Still, I find the way he squares his shoulders to be irritating, and I wonder if I haven’t made yet another hasty and regrettable mistake.

I probably shouldn’t be surprised that his initial focus would be solely on his own appearance. Without a second thought, I dress him in a loose pair of green overalls rolled up to mid-calf, a black-and-white shirt with tacky diamond print, and a wide-brimmed hat wreathed in decorative plastic flowers. He stares with horror down at his strange, mismatched attire.

“That was cruel, Author! Now the readers will be tainted with this unappealing image of me from this point onward. First impressions are important, you know? What do I have to do to get a suitable dashing-hero description out of you?”

“Continue to ask me questions,” I tell him. “I’d like you to interview me… for this Author Introduction I’ve been writing. If you do a good job, and you behave yourself, I’ll dress you or undress you however you like, in whatever story you feel inclined to exist within.”

He purses his supple lower lip and contemplates, ducking his head and gripping the pastel-splattered hat in his fist before yanking it off. “Any story I want?” he finally asks, lifting a skeptical eyebrow.

“Why not?” I shrug. “You characters do whatever you want most of the time, regardless. You’re all so unbelievably stubborn! I swear, trying to straighten out the many detours and antics of my characters during revision is like untying knots in my kids’ shoelaces when I’m sleep-deprived and lacking caffeine. To my frustration, I’ve added entire books to a series that I hadn’t originally intended, just because some wayward secondary character decided they wanted to take a leading role without permission.”

Mouse sucks his teeth and rolls his eyes. “Oh, please!” he huffs, waving the floral-topped hat at me. “You know you set all of that up. You’re like an evil puppet master! You put all the pieces into place and then sit back, eating your bucket of salty popcorn while you laugh and watch it all explode in front of you.” The words pour out of him in a single breath before he heaves in another mouthful of air. “Don’t act so innocent, Author — you know that you love it!”

“More than you could possibly imagine,” I confess with a broadening grin, “but the fact still remains: stories can, at times, take on a life all their own. Characters will make unexpected decisions and the plot will take a sudden drastic turn that even the writer wasn’t anticipating. More than once, I’ve added a minor character to a project who turned out to be more important than I knew when I initially created them — detrimental, in fact. So much so that they ended up changing the direction of their storyline entirely.”

“Is that truly how you craft your books?” Mouse asks. “Just plop down some exotic scenery, throw together a few tormented characters, then set them all loose to run amok, hoping they’ll provide you with an entertaining story?”

I narrow my eyes at his mocking tone, my lips forming a hard line. Mouse withers in front of me as he realizes the true danger of his mistake.

“You take my story in any direction that I don’t like and I’ll be forced to re-write you,” I say to him.

Mouse gulps hard, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down his spindly neck like a buoy in turbulent waters. He shakes his head insistently, his dark eyes widening with dread.

“No. You’re goading me, aren’t you?” I reply. Grumbling, I lean my elbows onto the surface of the desk and peer up at him, frustrated.

Mouse’s shoulders melt into a more casual pose as he observes me, waiting to see what I’ll do next. Still, he says nothing. Perhaps he’s not yet been developed enough to even know how to respond?

“Of course, that’s not how it works, you cheeky little gnat,” I snicker. “What a terrible story that would make! No direction. No plot. No point in caring for the characters… or their adventures.” I smile, my anger momentarily muted. “Sure, some characters are entertaining purely due to their vibrant personalities. You could listen to them blather on about absurdity, yet they’d still engage you with their wit and lively delivery.”

“You mean characters like me?” Mouse’s eyes twinkle like a gambler who’s just won his first honest wager.

I feel slightly guilty, having to burst his ego again so soon. He seems like a genuinely eager sort of fellow. “I have yet to decide if I mean you to be witty or not,” I answer truthfully.

Mouse deflates once more as he leans back against the edge of the desk, his fingers gripping the straw hat so roughly I can hear the brim snapping in his fist. I focus my attention on the sharp, brittle sound and the way it echoes unnaturally through the unending space around us.

“I don’t like the way you’re looking at me,” Mouse mutters, half under his breath. “I feel as if my fate has been sealed and you are tightening the noose around my neck with your eyes.”

“Maybe you’d worry less about your neck if you kept to task and did what I asked of you in the first place?” I prompt. Confused, Mouse blinks several times and I groan, shaking my head in exasperation. “The Author Interview that I requested?”

He flushes a vibrant red, and he waves the straw hat in front of him as if to fan it away. “Of course! How silly of me. What would you like me to ask first?”

“Seriously, Mouse? You have no ideas of your own?”

“If I am vacant and useless it is your fault as my creator. You made me this way!” he complains. With a swift and decisive flick of his wrist, he tosses the mass of broken straw and plastic into the abyss beyond the platform.

A sense of calm settles between us as we both watch it swirl and disappear into the darkness below.

“Start with asking about my background, perhaps?” I offer.

Mouse grunts indignantly at my suggestion and shakes his head. “You should never start a story with a long stream of boring and unnecessary background information. I learned at least that much from you.”

I can’t help laughing. Here he is, earnestly forming his personality in front of me, and here I am, feeling both amused and in awe over the very concept of fiction.

“Which one of us is the character here?” I ask him in jest as I lean back in my seat, stretching my legs and resting my feet on the desk.

Mouse glares down at my boots, only inches from where his ugly green overalls meet the surface of the painted wood. He sucks his teeth and quickly steps away. “You tell me, Author. Did you create me, or did I make you up instead?” he asks.

“It seems you are witty — and slightly sarcastic,” I respond in surprise. “I think I’m liking you a bit more after this little realization. If you don’t want to start with boring background information, Mouse, then what would you prefer?”

Mouse scowls and purses his lips, as if trying to stifle something that he knows might cause him more harm than good.

I watch as he turns and paces in front of the desk, his jaw clenched and his brow furrowed.

“Go on. You know it’s eating you up, Mouse. Just let it out!” I tell him.

His expression darkens and he quickly turns away. “I think you’re lying,” he admits. “You don’t like me. I’m quite certain. You’re going to kill me off horribly, aren’t you?” He looks broken — lost — a being without purpose or function. “Why else would you make me into such a mockery?” he asks.

Laughter bursts from deep within me like the loud, sudden crack of a whip. “I’m not certain how you’ll end up yet, Mouse. I don’t like to plan that far ahead, unless it’s absolutely necessary for the outcome of the story. Leaving certain aspects open and flexible gives my characters room to grow and change, allowing them to show a side of themselves I might not have realized they even possessed. I find that when I give my characters a problem to solve and some space, they usually end up surprising me in the most remarkable ways.” I lean further back in my chair until it hovers precariously on two legs. The dark, abysmal nothingness stretches out behind me. “Honestly, Mouse, I really wasn’t thinking that far ahead when I created you, either. You’re formless, malleable, with no history and no future except for the one that I dream up for you from this point onward. You’re not bound by a setting, a plot, or the opinions of other characters. Right now, your path is the brightest because you have nothing but possibilities ahead of you.”

Mouse takes a hard step back, his arms a whirling windmill while his bare feet teeter and slip unsteadily over the edge of the tiny platform. On instinct, I whip forward in my chair and grasp his forearm, pulling him back into the center of the platform.

“There now, Mouse — if I wanted to eliminate you, I could’ve just sat back and watched you plummet over the side. Wouldn’t even have had to get my hands dirty.” I can’t help laughing as I release him, and Mouse heaves a series of long, shuddering breaths, his eyes wild as he turns to peer into the unending darkness below.

“That was close,” he says. “What would have happened if I’d gone over?”

“I haven’t the faintest idea.” I sit back in my chair and imagine the possibilities. “Dissolved like a lump of lard in stomach acid, perhaps? Or erased, line by line, like a sketch?”

Mouse blanches, quickly turning to step away from the perilous edge and closer to the safety of the desk.

“So, what do you suggest, Author? Should we make another attempt at this farcical assignment?” He tries to smile reassuringly, but it looks more like he’s swallowed something sour and it’s sticking sharply in his throat.

I scoff at his obvious and pathetic desperation. Only moments before, the cheeky bastard had called me a liar. Now that he knows what’s really at stake, he’s kissing my rear end like the dirty little gnat he truly is.

“If you’d like to continue existing, the first thing I’d suggest is not to intentionally antagonize your author,” I say, laughing bitterly. “Irritating and insulting your creator isn’t usually a good idea, Mouse. You’ll likely end up someplace very foul by the end of the tale. I’d suggest trying to figure out what makes you as a character unique and worth keeping around. Give me some incentive. You’ll worry a lot less about your head if I have good reason to keep it attached to you.”

I should figure it out?” Mouse sputters. “Isn’t that your job?”

“Yes… yes, it is,” I respond.

Mouse grows silent, pondering it a while. He stares into the distance and smiles.

“If I agree to your task, I want you to make me better,” he announces, puffing up his scrawny chest. “I want to look more dashing — dark hair and bright eyes, a fine jaw, a built physique. I want to be taller, smarter, and more witty. I want readers to be curious and inspired by me. I want your other characters to envy my ability to create my own destiny — through my unique, and mutually beneficial relationship with you, dear Author.”

I just stare at him, absolutely stunned.

“I wasn’t expecting that,” I admit, a slow grin taking over my face. “I’m impressed, Mouse. Maybe, I will keep you around, after all.”

Copyright © Everyn Kildare

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