Barbie & Ken

Posted by jennifer gibson on Tuesday, January 24, 2012
People often ask me, where do I get my inspiration from? While the story line is pretty much from my life and based on true events, the characters are very loosely based on people around me.  I do a lot of people watching, that's one of the good things to come out of being hard of hearing since I can't follow conversations - it enables me to simply watch how others behave, dress, rely on facial gestures, use their hands or body to express their emotions and so on. 

If I need a big, strong character, I think about someone in my family, perhaps a hockey playing cousin and borrow their physical features.  I tend to add other personality quirks such an accent, sarcasm or shyness, clothing style, and so on.  I also watch a lot of movies and TV, not only am I getting an amazing lesson in writing style, I'm observing how the actors incorporate the personality of their character and really make them shine.  Sometimes it's a particular expression such as raising an eyebrow (like Teal'c from Stargate) or putting a finger to their lips while in thought (Nathan Fillion in Castle).  Other times it's more along the lines of overall tone like Claudia from Warehouse 13 who loves to say off the wall comments such as "Suckity, suck, suck!" or "Shut up, I'm being awesome here."  She's very into Steampunk, not only in her personality but also through her unique Goth like clothes.

I'm literally drawing out bits and pieces of personality traits from all around me and absorbing it into my characters.  There are some obvious references to what is going on during Jessie's teen years such a joke or sly comment that reflect her taste in TV shows or movies including Smallville, Twilight, Harry Potter, and Glee.  She connects strongly to them and often borrows a phrase or gets an idea from an episode since she can relate to it on some level. We all do this whether it's a conscious effort or not so it's natural that it's added to the book.

I'm also frequently asked why do I like writing so much?  Well, for me it's a form of escapism, it allows my mind to just go off and have fun in the virtual playground.  It's like a grown up version of playing with the Barbie and Ken dolls.  I just watch what happens when I place two or three characters into an intense situation and see what they do or how they react.  I simply record their conversation.  My job is to provide a rich, visual environment so that I can set the stage for the readers to enjoy.  It may sound easy to sit down and write out what is happening in my mind, unfortunately it's not necessarily true. Not only do I have to provide an engaging conversation, I also have to describe the surroundings, and make a conscious effort to write it out properly in regards to scripting speech.  There are numerous elements to incorporate such as sight, sound, smell and even taste as well as pain, happiness, sorrow, and anger.  

Sometimes the action is so intense and happening so fast, that I'm barely able to keep up with the dialogue as I write it all down.  It's very exciting particularly when there is an interesting scene happening.  It's also really easy to get out of control or go way off track.  The last thing I want to do is to provide pages and pages of a supremely boring day at school, I need to find other venues to provide a more exciting backdrop such as sports or other activities like a summer job.

Everything I do or say in the book is there for a reason, it may not become obvious until several chapters later or perhaps in the next book.  There are subtle hints placed throughout the book in regards to Jessie's personality.  Some situations really bring out her shyness or her vulnerability, and she may come across as being naive or particularly gullible - in some ways she really is like that due to her hearing loss.  Since she misses so much of the social interaction and lacks the ability to follow conversations, she is very slow to pick up on subtle nuances or clues as to what someone may want from her.  This is what gets her into so much trouble, she sometimes doesn't know when someone is playing a joke on her or lying through their teeth.  She is working so hard just to be able to hear someone talking to her and trying to understand what is being said, that she misses the subtext to what is happening. And this is what makes her life so interesting since so many things could go wrong. 

So, yeah, my mind is basically like an open dollhouse and I'm playing out my life experiences through Jessie and Ethan, putting them into all sorts of situations and watching what happens.  Welcome to my world.  It's insane and a crazy ride.

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