The subconscious mind is a truly fascinating and wonderful thing. It never ceases to surprise me.
Take the last half hour, for example.
I turned the TV on whilst I was doing a spot of ironing. It’s the 30th anniversary of the Australian soap opera ‘Neighbours‘ this year, so this week there’s been a few programmes on about it. The other night I caught a documentary, you know one of those “let’s look back on the last 30 years, even though we’ll concentrate on its heyday of the late 1980’s/early 1990s” type ones. (No complaints from me there, as this was when I watched, so a pleasant trip down memory lane, thank you very much, Channel 5.)
Anyway today I caught a whole episode they were showing which I think was from around 1987. It was, for those of you who might remember, Scott and Charlene’s wedding day episode.
Other than the fact that a whole host of nostalgic happy endorphins flooded my brain whilst watching, something else suddenly dawned on me. Something pertaining to the characters in my novel. Something which it seems may have been heavily embedded in my subconscious from all that time ago. From a TV soap of all things! I’m writing a children’s fantasy, adventure fairy tale, how does a TV soap opera I watched as a teen have any bearing on my writing?
Well it seems inspiration, conscious or otherwise, comes in many guises, and it was only from watching this today that it suddenly dawned on me where three of my characters may have subconsciously grown from. I’d certainly never made the connection before, but let’s not forget, the teenage mind is super powerful. Everything is embedded in there, for bad or for good. Every memory from that time is sharp. Characters appeared on that screen today I have not seen or thought about in 25 years and yet as soon as one appeared on screen, I was shouting out their names, as though I were meeting and embracing long lost friends I hadn’t seen since school days. I recalled them instantly and I’m not talking about major characters, I’m talking about the minor ones who appeared only for a limited time.
However, I digress. The full power of memory may be for another post.
No, this was a realisation about three of the main male characters. The young, main male characters. (Not surprisingly as a teenage girl, I paid most attention to them!)
Anyway in my novel Prophecy of Innocence, I have three young male elfling characters. There is the main protagonist and his two cousins. Watching Neighbours again from circa 1987, I realised (as I never planned my character’s personalities – bad writer *smacks hands) that these three characters I’ve created are the three young men from Neighbours. These TV character personalities were evidently so ingrained in my mind I’ve transposed them in elfling guise 20 odd years later! And there was me thinking my main protagonist was drawn from other sources. (Consciously he was, but this realisation has added a new element to my thinking about the writing process.)
More than their individual characteristics, I think it’s the relationship between the characters which may also have been drawn out of my subconscious.
So who’s who? (For those of you with a knowledge of Neighbours who might be curious…)
Well Toddington Rainstone, my main protagonist, is clearly Scott Robinson, but with dark hair. (I have always pictured Toddington with a dark mullet-ish hairstyle oddly enough, but more a-la Michael Praed from 1984’s Robin Of Sherwood – told you I had more conscious reasonings behind my characters.) But, no Toddington is as the main character, the hero. He’s young and impetuous like Scott. I mean, he’s brighter than Scott, and doesn’t have a skateboard but he is basically, in terms of the trio of the Neighbours’ characters, undoubtedly Scott. I mean he’s even lost his mum at a young age like Scott, and the opening chapter sees him huffing and puffing, arguing with his father, much like Scott would with Jim. It’s weird how certain cultural influences clearly cement themselves in your brain.
Then to Toddington’s two cousins. Although their Neighbours counterparts are not brothers to each other or cousins to Scott, Orpingswad and Congleton Brigenhouse are, basically, Henry Ramsey and Mike Young in disguise. Orpingswad even has blonde, tight curly hair like Henry. He’s also the clown character, the joker, and often the butt of the other’s teasing, but with a heart of gold, just like Henry.
Congleton is the sensible, level headed one, just like Scott’s best friend Mike always was. The one with logical, sober advice, the one who’s always a little bit in the background. (Although Congleton does not ride a motorbike. Motorbikes have not made it into Trelflande yet!) All that’s happened with my characters is Scott and Mike have swapped hair colour! Oh yes, mullets rule in 1762 Trelflande apparently. (Or it seems the 1980s rules in my head…hmmmm.)
So there it is. Maybe it’s utter co-incidence, but I don’t believe so. I think most of the characters in my novel stem from my subconscious past. I’ve written in previous posts about how I rarely sit down and consciously THINK about characters and plot, but rather allow them to flow out a little more organically, before I go back and re-write and edit the heck out of them. This particular link makes me very happy with my subconscious though. They were characters I loved a lot. Hopefully my characters will be as loved one day.
Oh and footnote:
The title of this post is also a chapter title in Book Two of Prophecy. This, however, was not a subconscious co-incidence. 😉