#AcresOfInk Writing Challenge ~ Week 27: Question 21

Aha! You get a blog post early this week! And maybe, just maybe, I’ll have another post for you on Wednesday… I’m still way behind but I’m determined to catch up. Soon.

Part of the 52 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

21. An interview with your villain (See ‘Hot Seating’ for ideas or create your own)

As with my protagonist, this interview with my villain, William Kale, will take place at the beginning of The Mayor, hopefully spoiler free.

William KaleHow old are you/when were you born?
Now, wouldn’t you like to know?

Where were you born?
As you can probably tell from my accent, manner of dress and complexion, I am from Hilt, born and raised. I’m not at all certain what might lead you to conclude otherwise.

What’s your favourite food?
I am rather fond of almond biscuits, accompanied by a hot tea and lemon.

Are you allergic to anything?
Allergic? What does that mean? No. I am not allergic to anything, other than fire and blind stupidity.

Cats or dogs (preference)?

I have no interest in animals. I certainly do not harbour any sort of affection for them. If anything, I would say I actively disliked them.

What has been the best day of your life so far?
That day — which I have been working towards for so long– is soon to come. I would hate to spoil the surprise…

And the worst?
The day I became an orphan, but it is rapidly shaping up to be today if you insist on asking such impertinent questions.

Do you have any habits you’re ashamed of?

What would make you kill someone?
Killing is messy and a sure-fire way to scupper your own plans; there are other ways to remove people from the political chessboard. I find it best to avoid murder unless I am presented with no other choice, or success is one-hundred percent guaranteed.

Have you ever smoked/taken drugs?

What would you do if I poked you in the eye right now?
I would remember it… and you would regret it.

Would you ever wear trainers without socks?
Judging by the disparaging tone of this question, I would presume this to be a rather uncouth manner of dress. I must therefore decline.

Who is your best friend?
I am best friends with everyone… and no one at all.

Where did you and your best friend meet?
Such tiresome questions…

Will you wear this pink dress?
[Distastefully] No.

Who is your favourite superhero?
Heroes? Heroes are fools. Aspiring to embody anyone other than yourself will lead only to bitter disappointment and inevitable failure.

What are you most afraid of?
I fear nothing. Given my past, one might be forgiven for assuming I fear fire, but on the contrary, I deliberately seek it out. Nothing is more cathartic than facing down the very thing that failed to kill you.

Are you romantic?
No. I’ve no need of it. My good looks and persuasive charm are all I need to lure a woman into bed, should I wish to. Which is not often. Some women, particularly those of a lower class, can be so forward…

Do you bite sellotape or cut it with scissors?
What is sellotape? It seems weak enough. I would bite it.

How often do you clean your teeth a day?
I scrub them meticulously with some warm water and a sponge after every meal.

Do you pick your nose?
Goodness, no. How disgusting.

If you could have one job, what would it be?
I am perfectly content within my current position as legate to this moral cesspit of a town.

Would you swim with sharks?

Would you go into space?
Don’t be ridiculous.

You sneeze into your hand in public and don’t have a tissue. What do you do?
I would use my handkerchief. What is a tissue?

Your mother/brother/sister falls over. What do you do?
I’ve already told you that I have no family. Have you not been listening to a word I’ve said?

Do you dunk biscuits in your tea?
Sometimes, if it takes my fancy.

Do you believe in love at first sight?
No. Only fools would believe in something so trite.

Have you ever stolen anything?
Documents. Money. Secrets. Lives…


S.E. Berrow


Writerly Navel-Gazing ~ Week 10: Question 9

As mentioned on a previous blog post, I missed a week of this challenge. Today I originally intended to answer two questions to make up for it, but my answer to Question 9 ended up being so long, I’ve decided to answer two questions next week instead (sorry!).

Part of the 30 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

9. How do you get ideas for your characters? Describe the process of creating them.

The answer to this question is so complex and so hard to put into words… Bear with me, I will try my best!

The truth is that I have no fixed process for character creation, and ideas can come from absolutely anywhere. Some characters will just show up fully-formed, demanding I tell their story. Others, I will have to go hunting for them for days, weeks, months, even years until at last I am able to trap them, break them, hone them into some semblance of a believable human being. Once a character stops behaving and you start having to work around them to move your plot along, you know you’ve done a decent job of development.

For the sake of being succinct, I’m going to focus on the creation and development of two characters in particular, else we’re going to be here all day!

~ WARNING: Mild spoilers for The Mayor below. I’ll do my best to avoid them, but I can’t promise anything. You can click the character image to be taken through to their profile page ~

William Kale

William KaleA prime example of the first kind of character I mentioned above is William Kale. I’ve touched on this a couple of times before, but he basically walked into my head one day — entirely himself — whilst I was listening to ‘The Mayor’ by Rasputina. The lyrics speak of “a blonde-haired”, morally destitute, insane individual who ruins the town he is then inexplicably made mayor of (“Oh no, way to go, he’s the mayor”). Lots of lyrics in ‘The Mayor’ apply to my story as a whole (mention of sinking ships, insane asylums etc.), however there is one repeated refrain throughout that really formed the core of Kale’s character: “If they take something precious from me, I’m going to take something precious from them.”

Whilst ‘The Mayor’ was perhaps the trigger, with hindsight I think Kale’s conception might also have been heavily influenced by a couple of other things, namely books I was reading around that time (2008). Roger Chillingworth for example is a character from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter who plants himself inside the home of his unfaithful wife’s lover under the guise of a doctor and slowly poisons him to death. Like Chillingworth, Kale plants himself inside the home of the Mayor of New Hardway and seeks to overthrow him. Then there is the duplicitous Captain Kennit from Robin Hobb’s The Liveship Traders who still manages to charm and manipulate those around him despite a total lack of empathy for others; a trait that Kale definitely shares. And then there is Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights who goes away, makes a fortune and later returns to act out slow, painstaking and terrible revenge on those who have wronged him… Kale can certainly relate to that. All of these books and characters seem to have fed into Kale’s creation in some way. Out of all the characters in The Mayor, he has changed the least since I first started.

Jonathan Carson

Jonathan Carson

A good example of the second kind of character meanwhile is Jonathan Carson. Ah, John. John, John, John… We’ve had a long journey, you and I. Though I had his bare bones at story start (I drew heavily on my favourite historical pirates “Calico” Jack Rackham and Stede Bonnet for his storyline/relationships with others/appearance/background etc.) there was just something… off about him that I didn’t like, and neither did a couple of my early Beta readers. He was a caricature. A stereotype. Just your typical rakish handsome sailor fond of drinking, debauching, able to draw women towards him like bees to a honeypot. But he was so important to the plot! He was literally created to fill out the plot. To be Jaspher’s brother. To show Melora that she has other options besides the life her father has chosen for her. To give the story a second half. And yet I couldn’t make him believable, let alone likeable.

Eventually I was able to figure out the reason why: out of the four main characters, John and I have the least in common. Yes, believe it or not, I have more in common with a psychopath like Kale then I do with John. This was of course a problem, because it meant I didn’t understand John. And if I didn’t understand him, then how could I possibly expect my readers to?

After this epiphany, I set about taking as many Character Quizzes for John as I possibly could. You know the ones, the ones that ask things like “What’s been the best day of your life so far?” “Who was your first kiss?” “Have you ever taken drugs?” Gradually the character of John began to develop. He became more three-dimensional. Writing him became easier. I still wasn’t entirely happy though.

Then one miserable afternoon in December 2011, someone told me something really awful that had happened to them. Something that disturbed and upset me so much that I just couldn’t keep it to myself else I’d go mad. So I poured it into my writing, and applied what I had heard to John. Suddenly his character made sense to me. It became apparent why he goes out drinking all the time, why he leads such a hedonistic lifestyle, why his brother thinks he’s off the rails, and why his father continually turns a blind eye to his reckless behaviour.

John’s character has flowed easily for me ever since.


S.E. Berrow

Meet The Characters

I have added a new section to The Mayor section of my website entitled ‘Meet The Characters’. Here you can see beautiful illustrations of each of my four main characters –Melora, Jaspher, Kale and John — drawn for me by my wonderful illustrator, Brettarts (read more about him in Affiliates).

By clicking a character image you can read more information about their story as well as discover some fun stuff like what dæmon I think they would have (Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials), what Hogwarts house they belong to (J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter) or what Tarot Card I most associate them with.

I may add to these character pages as time goes on so be sure to check back regularly for updates. In the meantime, click here to get acquainted.

Take care,

S.E. Berrow