THE SECRET LANGUAGE OF BIRTHDAYS
entertain the reader
write well-rounded characters
Too much is made of the latter, to my mind, and I've said as much in interviews when asked.
(My go-to example: no one really cares about Clarice Starling. If she ran a carwash, no one would even know her name. But put her in the plot of Silence of the Lambs and suddenly I'm alert to her daddy-issues and the entrenched patriarchy of the FBI. Plot is important.)
I don't start with character when I write.
I start with ideas for scenes and vibes. Sometimes I start with music or a film or even another novel. I want to write something that *feels* like <this>. When I have that firmed up, I work back to character and the first thing I determine is their birthday. It's obvious if you think about it: you're making the character, so you should know their birthday.
God knows your birthday.
Your parents know your birthday.
Once you have the birth date, you can turn to my favourite writing manual: The Secret Language of Birthdays by Gary Goldschneider and Joost Effers. A heady mix of astrology, numerology and 'psychic intuition', this book is a goldmine of character traits, habits, strengths and weaknesses. If you need to put your protagonist into conflict (duh), this book can tell you the birthdays/traits of antagonists that rub your character up the wrong way.
Is this kooky? Yes. But for me, it works. And I don't want to be normal, anyhow.
PS: This website has 90% of the book's information. So try it for yourself.
YOUR BODY WILL BE / BODY HEAD
In my 20s, I spent an inordinate amount of my time trawling secondhand CD stores for albums, often flicking past Failure's 1994 album Magnified because it has one of the worst covers in rock history. Until the day I caved and bought it for $2 and on hearing it, Magnified quickly became one of my all-time favourites.
The band -- of course -- failed spectacularly, managing to parlay two great records (Magnified and follow-up Fantastic Planet) into heroin addiction, hiatus and 'personal differences'.
They reformed in 2013 and released a new record and to be honest, I didn't care. At 37, I preferred one of the post-break-up side-projects (Autolux) and didn't want to reinvest in Failure or nostalgia.
Until the other day when I let their new EP Your Body Will Be run on Spotify (I think the algorithm suggested it) wherein I found -- just as I hit the 1:45 mark of opener 'No One Left' -- that I did want back in. I've been listening to this record for 2 weeks now and it's surprisingly great. A lot of their contemporaries can't write like this any more.
It's weird that I've discounted the band twice and yet they kept returning to stereo.
The other record I've been loving lately is The Switch by Body/Head. A collaboration between Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon (my favourite SY member, which should caution you about this record) and Bill Nace. I've been putting this record on at home a lot, on the weekends. I just like the way it changes the temperature of the room. It's strangely warming.
The Big Somewhere: Essays on James Ellroy's Noir World by Steven Powell. Good.
Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth. Oh dear.
For Keeps: 30 Years At The Movies by Pauline Kael. Brutal.
I mainly just post pictures to Twitter lately. It doesn't need any more opinions.
This month, I've chosen 'drone aerials' as my theme. Each one feels like the opening of a scene to me.
Because I am the god of my characters, I guess.
Still, they're very pretty:
Last month, the theme was eyeballs.
And that is quite enough, I think.
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