Pixie Pandemonium

The best part of writing fantasy is the making up stuff part. Of course everything is based on some sort of fable or mythology, something someone somewhere said or wrote or in Disney’s case, animated, so we all just accept it as fantasy fact. Like most writers, I absolutely LOVE breaking the accepted rules and building worlds based on my own concepts. Post-divorce superpowers I suppose, but controlling what happens inside my fantastical environments is more fun than hitting the lottery. (Not like I’d know.) 

Take my paranormal romance, Cold in California. The vampire/hero/protagonist and all around handsome dude is Gabriel Strickland. For a vampire, he seems not too unusual, right? But my vampire is dead. Really and truly dead. Staked-and-gonzo-for-the-final-time dead. So how can I be telling his story if he’s dead? Because I LOVE to break the rules. My double-dead vampire has been chosen for one last chance to earn heaven. 

Aside from his lovely heroine, I needed a cast of characters. I wanted a particular character who could sustain behind the scenes and come forward to play a big role in the slam bang ending. I wanted a character the reader would be looking around the corners of the story to get a glimpse of and anxious to see again. An extremely fun and interesting character among the other dead supernaturals living in a West Hollywood warehouse and working to earn a ticket through the pearly gates. I chose a pixie. 

According to Encyclopedia Mythica: 

The term Pixie is derived from Picts, a well-known old race from Northern England and Scotland. Other name origins are obscure. As usual, the Little People were hostile to their conquerors. They stole cattle and destroyed crops, resented the fact that they were driven away from the best lands. But some friendships occurred too, sometimes even leading to marriages between the invaders and the larger of the Little People. 

Well nice, but not my pixie. Her name is Shirley and she’s a wild card. She’s beautiful with a streak of playful wickedness that both irritates and intrigues the other residents. She’s five feet tall and has long golden hair, smells of sweet caramel and serves as a sexual dynamo without much of a conscience. Exploring Shirley and her journey to the final end turned out to be a blast. Next week I’ll be posting Shirley’s background in the Cold in California character pages at my author’s site. Where she came from and where she’s going is part and parcel of creating the world I wanted to portray. This gal isn’t throwing pixie dust around, she’s finding self-pleasure and hoping final judgment doesn’t catch up with her. She’s a supporting character and I had fun writing her. I let her play and cause mischief, but I let her shine too. 

I’ve found that this technique of creating a different view of a character works well even in genres outside paranormal or urban fantasy. It’s a big question writers love to ask. The big WHAT IF

One cool exercise I enjoy when developing character is to simply jot down the obvious about that character as I originally see them. Is s/he average? A nerd? Stunning but evil? Does s/he have scruples or run on instinct? Does the character’s logic reflect his/her background or are they off the map? Once that list is made, I make a counter list, a WHAT IF list. 

What if my nerdy hero discovers he has serious bedroom eyes he never knew he had? Or better yet, what if he discovers the hidden strength of his nerdiness to win the hot girl or save the world he loves (even if that just means the corner coffee shop he frequents)? 

What if the mean boss is more than just a handsome dude with power to wield fire and brimstone over his staff? What if he’s deeply troubled? Likes to wear sequined shoes alone at night or only eats white food? What journey can he take toward discovering how to manage such things? What if he does an amazing out-of-character action that sets a whole new tone for the story? 

The big WHAT IF is all about telling a story in a way the reader doesn’t expect. Finding new paths to telling the same old tale is vital right now as every agent and publisher out there is looking for the illusive X-Factor – whatever that is. (I think it’s a secret code among the powers that be and it’s our job to unravel it with remarkable narrative and creative points of view.) 

I’ve always believed that creativity is plagiarism with a flair; a spark no one ever thought of before. If your hero, a mild-mannered bag boy at the local Piggly Wiggly, is also a master of Feng Shui and slightly psychic to boot, you might be getting somewhere. And if my pixie is a two million year old over-sexed trickster who never learned her lesson and suddenly finds her sense of right and wrong, something unique and magical happens to affect the whole story. 

Even with an amazingly original plot concept, if our characters aren’t just as original … it can all crash and burn. At least that’s this writer’s feelings on the subject. Never mind that I’m lost in the middle of pixie pandemonium. Viva la big WHAT IF!

About Deborah Riley-Magnus

Deborah Riley-Magnus is an author and an Author Success Coach. She has a twenty-seven year professional background in marketing, advertising, and public relations as a writer for print, television, and radio. She writes fiction and non-fiction. Since 2010, she had two novels released. In 2013 her nonfiction, Finding Author Success (Second Edition), and Cross Marketing Magic for Authors were released. Her newest book, Write Brain/Left Brain, focuses on bridging the gap between the creative writer and the marketing author. Deborah produces several pieces monthly for various websites and online publications. She writes an author industry blog and teaches online and live workshops as The Author Success Coach. She belongs to several writing and professional organizations. Deborah has lived on both the east and west coast of the United States and has traveled the country widely. She is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and recently returned after living in Los Angeles, California for several years. View all posts by Deborah Riley-Magnus

7 responses to “Pixie Pandemonium

  • Stevie

    I say break all the rules! A story well told is what matters most and you my dear, seem to have that knack down to a tee. I wish I could write fiction. I guess my life has been so bizarre that I can’t find anything to make up a story about 😉 I love pixies 😉

  • Deborah Riley-Magnus

    Thanks for stopping by Stevie! Yeah, I think pixies can be a hoot. Hopefully Shirly is a bit more “hoot worthy” than most, LOL.

  • sulci

    I didn’t know the etymology of pixie deriving from Pict. It’s ironic, as the Picts were an unconquerable barbarian tribe, who wore blue war paint (more paint than clothes) and kept crossing Hadrian’s Wall after the Romans had left and beating up the locals. They were fierce and warlike, not quite what the word ‘pixie’ conjures up.

    I take a slightly different approach to character. I just have to find their unique (to them) voice, how they express themselves. Once I’ve got that, things like squints and sequins and sedative addiction develop naturally.

  • Deborah Riley-Magnus

    Thanks Marc. I know all writers approach the task differently, but you definitely do it well!

  • martha Bryce

    I just finished Cold In California and I LOVED it. The characters are so well developed – even minor characters like your darling pixie, Shirley. She went out with a bang and although I pitied her final destination, I had to admire her “je ne sais quoi”. The book was a wonderful, wacky, fun filled romp through the LA supernatural community. You have tremendous talent and the skill to match the talent. Now get off the blog , move back to the computer and give me the second book! Right now!

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