Character Inspiration by Charlotte Young
“Ora’s Gold” is my first full length novel. Ora, the protagonist ‘arrived’ five years ago after I’d been in bed for a few days with a very high fever. I was training to be a birth attendant at the time and had come down with the flu. As soon as the fever broke, I sat up and wrote a highly tense birth scene where a young woman is very reluctantly helping a woman in labour. This was in fact the birth of Ora! I didn’t know her name at the time. It was only a few weeks later when a new café popped up in our neighbourhood that I realised this was her name. My character’s name had to be new to me, with no history of a known person attached to it.
I didn’t have the plot so I didn’t know the ending until she took me there. Mid-way into the story, I was quite devastated at the surprising ‘wild-card’ fate threw at Ora and her beau, Jake. At the time, this turn of events didn’t fit in with my idea of what needed to happen to my heroine—it still doesn’t. The writing process for me was like an unveiling of Ora, one sitting at a time. After the initial scene, a series of flashbacks followed with Ora sitting on the side of a mountain, looking back at the crazy few months she’d just spent with her aunt. This presented all sorts of problems for me later, with regard to the structure of the plot but it was a great way to get to know my main character.
Ora is a mixture of her very conservative doctor father, her wild, effusive, earth-loving mother and the fear driven society in which she lives. I came to know her through the action as the scenes played out under my fingertips.
Initially, she was naïve, with little experience of the world. Part of her world stopped five years prior, following the deaths of her mother and sister. Her father’s influence is at the fore at the beginning of the story; she certainly likes to follow the rules. At the same time, she’s got a lot of experience in grief and mourning, so has a certain wisdom about her. When she moves in with her mother’s sister who is rebelling against the state, a dormant part of her begins to come alive even though this presents all sorts of challenges. One of the things I like the most about Ora is that she’s not afraid to show her vulnerability.
No-one particular person in real life inspired me when it came to fleshing out Ora’s character. There are undoubtedly aspects of myself in there, although I don’t think I could pick them easily. The main inspiration came from all of the stories I’ve ever read with a strong female lead. To name a few that come to mind: Dinah from “The Red Tent”, Offred from “The Handmaid’s Tale”, Ayla from “The Clan of the Cave Bear”, the four main characters in “The Dovekeepers” and Katniss Everdeen from “The Hunger Games”.
With all of my characters, I have a strong sense of who they are at their core but their looks are a little less clear. I once heard a famous writer say that you only need to give the reader a brief description of the character’s appearance; hair and eye colour and age and size, and the reader will elaborate on the details…I know this is true for me, as a reader. I hope it is for you too!
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