I Think it’s Part of Being a Storyteller

A portrait of Tobiano Lightning Dancer, a character from The Royal Rogue, as portrayed by the author.

A portrait of Tobiano Lightning Dancer, a character from my debut novel, The Royal Rogue.

I recently finished this painting of Tobiano, a character from my novel, The Royal Rogue, and I can’t stop glancing at it. Granted, it’s mounted in my hallway so it doesn’t help that I see it multiple times a day. Yet there is something different about this painting that catches my eye.

Something that makes it feel alive.

What you see above is Tobiano Lightning Dancer as I see him. It might as well be a photograph. I love that my gifts allow me to share these characters not just through words, but through sketches and paintings.

As a writer, I am constantly asked how I create my characters. How do you explain to someone that the people in your books aren’t just ideas put on paper? That after so much time, they evolve into individuals in their own right, with their own stories, their own voices, their own faces, and names.

“But Elli,” you may say. “They aren’t real.”

Sure, they’re fiction. They were never born. Not in the manner we perceive it, anyway. But tell a writer their characters aren’t alive, and I guarantee inside their minds they are rolling their eyes.

If only you knew, we think to ourselves.

This portrait displays a face I see vividly inside my imagination. Every hair, every wrinkle, every shade of green inside those eyes are memorized, like a photograph. If I close my eyes, I can hear his voice. It’s smooth and warm, like a father’s comfort. When Tobiano speaks, he speaks slowly, with a cadence that calls your ears to attention. He dwarfs me, his stature reaching six feet tall, with strong shoulders and a lithe frame.

Sometimes I wonder if readers of Rogue see these characters come to life like I do in my head. Do they hear their voices? Feel their emotions? See the crease in their eyes when their lips spread into a grin? Do they feel like they know them, or are they just reading a story?

“Where did he come from?” people will say.

I really don’t know. They’re born inside a world inside my head. When I write my stories, they speak for themselves. Perhaps being a writer is just a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia. Maybe I’m just crazy.

I think it’s just part of being a storyteller.

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