Okay, so this is coming pretty quickly on the heels of my previous entry. But, this is something I felt needed addressing. Not too long ago, an author I’m acquainted with asked me about one of my characters (specifically, about a certain power he possesses), and dissatisfied with the answer I gave her, I thought it high-time I create an in-depth blog dedicated to everything (at least, everything I could think of) that went into my characters’ creations.
Where did the characters come from/what inspired them?
There is no simple answer to this question; there are so many sources I drew from, both knowingly and unknowingly, that it would be impossible to pinpoint them all. However, I will bring up those elements that I remember, in whole or in part, and those that I can only guess at. I will also expound on those aspects that–should they coincide with actual lore–were intentional, coincidental, or subconsciously drawn from. The latter two categories will sometimes overlap, since in some cases, I don’t recall reading the specific lore in question until after I’d already established a character, and am otherwise allowing for the possibility I did and have simply forgotten. Some are likely sheer coincidence, but again—after all this time, all the reading, writing, and research I’ve done, it’s difficult to determine what fits where.
I won’t explore the origins of every character, but the three main protagonists for which without, the Whispers of Nowhere Trilogy would not exist as it does today. Before I begin exploring them individually, however, the first thing that bears mentioning is that Forneus and Phenex came into being at the same time. Or rather, prototypes of them did while writing a Devil May Cry fanfiction in the latter part of 2013.
Back to the point: for all intents and purposes, the versions used in the fanfic are not the Forneus and Phenex of the Whispers of Nowhere Trilogy or The Spectrum Chronicles as a whole; not in breed, and aside from a few commonalities, not in appearance or personality either. So why bring up the prototypes at all? Because without them, the Forneus and Phenex of the trilogy—and the trilogy itself—likely would not exist.
Another thing to note about these two characters is that subconsciously, I drew from a duality; my preferences—the things I find attractive, endearing, or otherwise engaging—and from aspects of myself. On one hand, Forneus is the kind, gentlemanly type; well-spoken, courteous, good-humoured, patient, and forgiving. On the other hand is Phenex; rough around the edges, cocky, smart-mouthed, impetuous, mercurial…
There is so much more to both of them than the traits listed above, but you get the idea. In their mannerisms, they are polar opposites. Both possess “attractive” qualities, and both possess elements that can be seen as either an asset or a detriment, depending on the situation. This duality of character—not just Phenex and Forneus compared to one another, but the duality of each—is one I may have only drawn on subconsciously at the start, but one I feel strongly must be maintained. It’s not as simple as comparing darkness to light, since every character—every person—possesses a little bit of both. What it is meant to represent is that in spite of their differences, they can still be cohesive; that whatever faults they have can also be a virtue in the right context.
This brings us to when I penned down the first (and then, only) concept for Whispers of Nowhere—then untitled—and how it involved a main character accompanied by two mentor/guardian-type characters. When I think back on it, I didn’t so much create Phenex and Forneus as pluck them out of thin air. I had only a vague notion for an original story at the time, shortly before completing the previously mentioned DMC fanfic. The long and the short of the concept was this: a young girl, accompanied by two supernatural beings, would have to travel the world in search of magical artifacts. Beyond this concept, nothing else was established. Gwen existed in neither name nor form, beyond this shadowy perception of a girl. This was toward the end of 2013, about October or November if I recall correctly.
Now enter early 2014; the idea that those two supernatural entities would be Forneus and Phenex took root. To this day, I’m not sure if the following was merely an impulse, or if the words, “Why not use us?”—in a voice other than my own inner monologue—literally went through my mind. To clarify, I’m not “hearing voices”—I’m just given to wonder if in a fit of boredom, my subconscious opted to bring the prototypes of the DMC fanfic to my attention, but with the intention of birthing new characters from their metaphorical “blue prints”.
Whatever inspired me to make use of those blue prints and weave new life for them, all that matters is that if not for that impulse, that epiphany, I wouldn’t be where I am today. No, this is not being typed from the padded cell of an insane asylum—would be kind of hard to do with a straitjacket on, no? 😉
I digress: shortly after reaching that decision—Forneus and Phenex as mentor characters—I came up with Gwen. From there, much of the story (settings, plot, character interaction and development) crystallized on its own. Some aspects I consciously came up with, and others struck me at the strangest—and as many writers can attest, inconvenient—of times.
Now that I’ve reached the “conception”, as it were, I will delve into the characters as individuals, and what inspired them.
Up first, Gwen!
Now, I don’t recall a great deal of what inspired Gwen. Some of her traits are quite opposite myself, and others are drawn from my interests, experiences, or the things I had often hoped for or dreamed of. Another thing that inspired both her and the basic concept of Whispers of Nowhere was an anime I loved in my early teens: Cardcaptors.
I saw a bit of Sakura and her plight in Gwen, but as the story and Gwen herself grew, the similarities became a great deal less pronounced. As to the aspects Gwen and I share, this list too is quite vague and short; her penchant for being defensive when scared, her interest in crystals, her stubborn streak…these are our greatest similarities. Beyond that, everything else about Gwen, similar or opposite my nature, was subconsciously done. I still feel like I’m getting to know her, even now with the final installment in the WoN Trilogy complete. There is so much more to her than I first wrote into her character bio, so much more to her than what’s been revealed in book one’s various edits, and in books two and three’s first drafts; so much I hope to expound on in the final products.
Now to move onto the next character in our little trio of protagonists—Forneus!
Beyond the knowledge of his prototype previously mentioned—a prototype whose name, like Phenex’s, was picked from a list of demons, and with very little research done beyond picking the name, besides—Forneus’ character isn’t knowingly based on anything. Nothing I’ve read, played, watched…you name it. As stated at the beginning, much of Forneus’ personality is derived from my preferences in male characters, and in a duality within myself; the side prone to introspection and deep contemplation, the one that (however small) tries to maintain a logical train of thought to prevent rash or impulsive action.
That said, by either coincidence or subconscious design, my Forneus (a daemon, which in my literary world, is starkly different from a demon) shares commonalities with his demonic counterpart. Primarily these points, which I have quoted from one of the sources I’ve used for research: “Though most people think of demons as evil-doers, Forneus actually protects others from the acts of evil-doers.” This falls in line, I feel, with my own Forneus’ protectiveness not only of Gwen, but of those closest to him, and toward humanity as a whole. The article went on to say: “Forneus can bestow a good reputation to those who are deserving. He excels in teaching communicative arts including foreign languages and rhetoric, etc.” and “…Can also influence others to grow a fondness or admiration for a person of his choosing, regardless of previous judgments and conditions.”
On top of this, the demon Forneus adopts a sort of sea monster form, seen as his “guardian” form. This last is a bit of a stretch, but the guardian aspect is what caught my attention, since of course my Forneus does not adopt a sea monster form. Aside from that, the other commonalities between them—demonic lore Forneus, and the silver-eyed daemon I’ve grown such a fondness for—are quite uncanny. His communicative skills, the fact that he takes on the role of teacher, mentor, and protector to Gwen, the fact that he assisted in Gwen and Phenex coming to understand one another so that they could put their differences aside, his overall amiability with most other characters… It all coincides.
Beyond this, whatever else might have inspired his character—intentionally or otherwise—has been lost to the dusty recesses of my mind.
Now, last, but certainly not least in our trinity…
Ah, Phenex…where to begin with this character? There are so, so many things that influenced him as a character—both physically, and personality-wise. There is also so much about him that came together of its own accord, things I wound up attributing to one source of inspiration or another. But after all this time, the question remains: “What came first? The phoenix or the flame?” <–That, by the way, I believe was used by J.K. Rowling in one of the Harry Potter books, and until the first time the concept went through my mind—as it has many times before now—I had forgotten where my mind had plucked it from. And this, my friends, is the point in reference to looking at the elements that make Phenex who he is; I cannot rightly say what things I subconsciously took from, or what things I came up with that coincidentally happened to fit with lore or other fictional works.
In reference to said fictional works, I believe it was Rowling’s interpretation of phoenixes having healing tears that inspired my Phenex’s healing capabilities—though with my own twist, since it isn’t tears he heals with, but with the aid of his own phoenix feathers (a concept seen in certain game franchises). To be honest, at the time of writing his bio, I thought Rowling had borrowed the healing tears concept from actual phoenix lore; it wasn’t until afterward that I realized no mention of healing powers—at least, not in any of the sources I’ve read through since—have ever been mentioned. On par with that, however, I opted for him to have self-regenerative powers, so that too might have influenced my desire to let him use some of that power to benefit others—thus giving him a balance of constructive and destructive elements. His regen capabilities were also (in part) influenced by too many fandoms for me to name, in which in many of them, a favourite character had rapid regen.
So, where else does Phenex’s character come from? Well, like Gwen, some of who he is was drawn from my own experiences, and my temperament—though his fiery temper eclipses mine tenfold. Naturally, I only came to the conclusion after the fact; none of the commonalities I share with any of my characters, minor or major, were intentional.
Temper aside? His pride, stubbornness, and hesitancy to make amends also coincide with my personality to a certain degree, as does his love for a good fight—but that also was derived (again, unintentionally) from many of the characters I’ve loved from childhood and up. His mercurial mood, wry sense of humour, defiance against his enemies… These are things a great many can identify with, and qualities I both possess to varying degrees, and in other instances, try to emulate. Many of Phenex’s qualities reflect something I either wish to improve on, or something I wish to be. In sum, much of the determination that has seen me through of late—both in my writing endeavours and other aspects of my life—are greatly derived from the strength I see in Phenex. Not solely him, as I find much of the same strength in Forneus and Gwen as well, but I’d be lying if I said Phenex wasn’t my golden boy, the one I identify with the most. It is for this reason that he is one of my most complex characters—probably the most complex character—in the trilogy and series as a whole. Or so I think. I’m sure others feel differently.
It is also because of this that it is so difficult to unravel all of the threads that went into his creation. Between his physical appearance and personality, it’s hard to sort out what I borrowed from actual phoenix lore, what I forgot about and wound up subconsciously making use of, and what is mere happenstance. One example involves phoenixes being linked to the sun, and by extension, Sun deities. I feel this was both intentionally drawn from, and subconsciously. Primarily, I think the link with the sun was forgotten, but a concept I went with prior to remembering it in actual lore because logically, sun and fire are often linked. As to the solar deities—Ra, Horus, and Apollo having a hand in Phenex’s upbringing and tutelage—this seems more on the happenstance end of the spectrum; though perhaps through my knowledge of their affiliations with the sun, it might have vaguely linked up in my mind without me giving it much thought.
Now, obviously Phenex’s affiliation with the cycles of death and rebirth are straight out of phoenix lore. Other aspects, however, such as his scent containing cinnamon (in some phoenix lore, they use cinnamon bark for their funeral pyres) were unintentional. Or so I think. I don’t recall reading that tidbit until after I had established his link with cinnamon; this, I think, concludes two things: That I must have read it and forgotten, and that cinnamon has been linked to warmth, comfort, heat, even literal fire—in my mind for as long as I can remember. So in sum, column A and column B share equal credit.
And so, this concludes my lengthy recollection of what went into my characters’ creations, or at least as much as I could remember for now. All I know is that, however many outside influences inspired them, the characters I have created are well and truly their own people; after nearly three years of working with them, what few coincidences they share in lore or with other fictional characters seems moot, now. I also hope this blog—long as it is—satisfies the curiosity of those who have wondered about the characters mentioned here. Perhaps in the future, I will create another blog dedicated to my antagonists, and to my supporting characters as well.
If you’ve come this far, thanks for reading! If you’re a fellow writer, I hope to one day learn of what inspired your own characters, and how much they have grown and changed from their original concepts.
For now, I bid you adieu!