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Source-ery for Wizards - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
Source-ery for Wizards

[Character details: rob from the real and give to the fictional.]

By way of Festschrift for a very dear friend of mine in fandom – so ageless as to be of (wait for it) no æon – I wish to say a few words w/r/t the writer’s unconscionable habit of filching (note to printer: keep as written. ‘Felching’ is another thing entirely), from his connexions and people on the telly or in the news and Rabbit’s-friends-and-relations, personal quirks and characteristics with which to dower his fictional creations. This occurs even in derivative works (for and to minor characters and Next Gen sorts, particularly).

One of the advantages of being my sort of weight is, when you lean on a garlic clove, it stays leant upon. [Crushes garlic] There was a time on my life when I used to get rugby forwards to come and roll out my pastry for me. I don’t need to do that anymore. [Pause; grin] One met a lot of nice rugby forwards….

– Clarissa Dickson Wright

I make no bones about the fact that my Millicent, even though I write her as being a Lesbian, has a good deal of Clarissa to her (and a dash of Ann Widdecombe). Similarly, despite issues of canonical age and canonical looks, Andromeda, to me, ought somehow to be played by Penelope Keith.

We all do it. I cannot and dare not mention people known to me and not otherwise known to the Great British Public who have lent, unwittingly, their quirks to various characters as I write those characters; but I confess that there are public figures who have informed markedly my conceptions even of Potterverse characters.

Albus Severus Potter, for example, at school-leaver / undergraduate / recent graduate age, has come to take on some of the Floppy-Haired, ah, Skinny Idiot (as the Fifth Doctor called the Tenth, in ‘Time Crash’) integument that is the public persona of one Mr H Styles. But of course he’s also become informed by the insuperable Harries twins as well….

Teddy – whom I write as straight, mind you – may take his willingness to hide behind words and paper and letterpress from Remus (and me), but he has his Mika and Nigel Slater elements as well, and not only in looks (a passing phenomenon for a Metamorphmagus in any event). And Hugo has a touch of the Michael Sandses, to me.

Post-epilogue Harry…. Well. Obviously, he is canonically an Auror, although JKR has never told us – quite probably because she’s never bothered to think about it – whether that is meant to be more like the Forces or the Old Bill or, as in the days before Peel, both. I tend to think it more akin to soldiering because, although Harry’s quite clever – the Hat was as willing to sort him Ravenclaw as any other House – I find it easier to imagine his virtues, and Ron’s, in senior ornaments of HM Forces than in senior coppers (imagine those two in any CID). There are ample portrayals of that classic British type – Geoffrey Palmer does one very well – but there’s more to Ron and Harry than that. I have allowed Harry to be influenced by two savagely competitive hearties who are a lot cleverer than the opposition realise until it’s too late, Jimmy and Chef. As for Ron … Freddie and Swanny.

(I confess that, although Swanny and various Baggy Green sledgers may have brought the idea to public notice, I fear I may be, in fandom, responsible for the Adult Draco as Broady trope, not least by bringing the Gospel of Stuart to Femme.)

Speaking of post-War (and redeemed) Draco, I can only say that for me as for the Tenth Doctor (and David Tennant himself), the Fifth Doctor was, is, and ever shall be my doctor, and that has not failed to inform my concept of Draco.

I could go on: my Nev as stealing quirks and quiddities from John Cushnie, Eric Robson, and most of GQT, alongside defiantly ‘Northern’ intellectuals such as Alan Bennett and Simon Armitage and AJP Taylor and JB Priestley, say, (and of course Wainwright himself) – with touches of Hague and dear Eric Pickles: note, please, that these are all persons who should have nothing to say to one another, just as one’s character needn’t share a sexuality with any of those whose mannerisms one has plundered in making her: but I must proceed to my point.

Just as we are all the sum of our several genes and circs, so too is every character the product of a lineage: in the case of fictional characters, the tropes and archetypes as made new by borrowing from those we know or have observed. Just as it is not in fact true that ‘all words are awesome words’ – an amateur’s philosophy, I fear, that risks teaching aspiring writers that quantity is superior to quantity, and risks not teaching that in fact, quite often, the sparer, the better – so is it false to believe that characters can be cut from whole cloth and whipped together from archetypes. It is in the observed details which the observant writer steals from chaps at his club or folk in the shops, that they are given life.

So I ask you, all of you, to think seriously about this. Are you observing sufficiently? Are you willing to put aside ‘niceness’ and all that rot and gleefully steal what you can from every source you see in your fellow men? Who influences your conceptions of your characters or of JKR’s? Do you know? Examine them and yourself: can you say? (And if so, do feel free to tell us in comments.) Because this an indispensable exercise: for the writer specially, the unexamined life – one’s own, and still more one’s characters and their characterisations – is not worth living.

Which is why my timeless and ageless friend in whose honour I write is one of the best in – or out – of fandom. Cultivate, I implore us all, a similarly seeing eye.

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sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: January 7th, 2013 11:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
I go into a Georgette Heyer trance when perpetrating HP fanfic, unless Viktor Krum is involved, in which case I hear Šop folksongs in my head...
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