No, I am not Queen Victoria, but the question of muses is interesting. Personally, I associate them with poets of dodgy mental stability and pre-Raphaelite painters, but some people find them helpful in the creative arts. However, writers, painters, and other creative people all use bits and bobs, ‘collages’, from reality, both experience and physicality, to infuse their fiction, consciously or unconsciously. I suppose I am wary of using the same person over and over again, lest that create the same character, and from preference I would blend even physical aspects. The danger there is that you end up with a Frankenstein’s monster, badly stitched together and a bit leaky at the seams.
Having declared against muses, I am then forced to admit I took one physical form for one of my two ‘detectives’ for my 12th century Bradecote and Catchpoll murder mystery series. I had two characters in mind, one the grizzled ‘seen it all before’ Sheriff’s Serjeant, and the other a manorial lord drafted in whether he wanted it or not, initially to keep the more lordly suspects ‘happy’. I began writing the first book in 2003, and a few months later opened my newspaper to see ‘Catchpoll’ staring at me fully formed.. It was an interview with an actor about to play Titus Andronicus, and staring at me was the perfect fit for my character.
Reader, I stole him.
|Richard Armitage as John Thornton in North and South (BBC 2004)|
From that moment on I could visualise Catchpoll in every gesture, grimace, every sucking of teeth. I knew his voice, the way he screwed up his eyes. I gave him a character that was a ‘collage’, but I could see him clearly. Now, it has been remarked that reading my work is like watching a television drama or film. Perhaps that is a consequence of creating a world and being ‘in it’ as I write. It does mean ‘seeing’ characters helps. It also meant that my Under Sheriff was a bit ‘thin’ on first draft.