When I was a kid, I always wanted to be a spy, or something along that line of work.
I am working on a new book at the moment, and I have been thinking a lot about the backstories of our characters, and what motivates them into action. They are the same questions that we all ask of ourselves. Often I pause in the middle of something and question why I am actually doing it. Often I have no idea why, but it always seems like a pretty good idea at the time.
Many of those moments have happened over my 31 years, particularly during my raucous teenage years when I would do many a stupid thing without even thinking about it. Usually it was because my peers were all doing the same thing as well, and the peer pressure or influence was strong on my young mind. And so during those years I took up smoking cigarettes, developing my taste for alcohol, experimenting with drugs, and testing the waters with the opposite sex.
And it was through that experimentation that I wisened up. Not only was I a bright young spark of a thing, but I also became ‘street wise’. I stopped the whole drug-taking thing almost as soon as I started. There was something about not being in full control of myself that I didn’t particularly like very much. If only I had discovered the same with alcohol at the time. The difference with alcohol was that my mind was still my own, and I still had control over it. Sort of. And thanks to the experience of ending up in hospital with a broken nose and alcohol poisoning once, I will never ever again be completely and utterly reckless with it. (I am incredibly lucky my nose healed without even a kink in it!)
I actually discovered that teenage boys were idiots. I am not kidding. The more I got to know them, the more I couldn’t understand why all my friends were falling about themselves trying to get their attention. And because I wasn’t even remotely ‘interested’ in them at the time, some of those teenage boys that hung out with our crowd became my best friends. Even as adults we are all still very close. I still see those young teenagers that they used to be resting beneath the surface. There are hilarious stories that come out when we are all together and chattering about our reckless past.
I eventually got to the point of realising that whenever I did anything even remotely sneaky, I would always get caught. I would try and skip out on school – only for my Mum to walk past me on the street. I would try and sneak cigarettes from my Dad’s packet, and they would always catch me. And at one point (when I hadn’t quite discovered how ridiculous teenage boys were) I even tried to sneak a teenage ‘friend’ into the house at night. Well – it all crashed and burned. And that was when I realised that I would make a pretty crap spy. Spying and being sneaky just wasn’t in my nature. Besides, there was really no point once I realised that I would always get caught!
So I found my direction again. I started surfing, got back to the books, and I put my head down, with my bum up. And without the constant distraction of drugs, booze, and boys – I excelled. I focused on achieving, and started studying Design at the sweet young age of seventeen. All that above? It was all before I was seventeen years old. The only thing I never really wisened up about at the time, was smoking cigarettes. The rest of it? I had loads of will power and stubbornness to protect me – especially for a young female on the surfing and university student scene where drugs, sex, and rock’n’roll (dance parties) are prevalent.
And so, this brings me to character development. I wouldn’t have the character that I have without having gone through what I have experienced. Experiences have shaped me, and the way that I think. They have shaped the way that I will raise my own children. They have shaped the reasoning of why I do things, and why I don’t. Our characters are the same. In order to make them believable, they must have the same steady motivations and reasoning behind them in their backstories.
I would have made a bad international spy anyway. My characters on the other hand… can be whatever they want to be. They just have to have a reason for it.