If you’re lucky enough to have gotten your hands on a copy of THE BOOK OF BART by now, you’ll know that Ryan Hill is one heck of a character creator. I adore his little motley crew of darlings, each so different from the other, and I’m sure that you will as well. I’ve asked him to swing by today and share how Bartholomew, the perfect anti-hero, came to life.
My characters usually have different paths to creation. Some come to life because I want to give another character someone that antagonizes them and creates conflict. My main character in THE BOOK OF BART, for example, actually first appeared in an abandoned manuscript of mine. Originally, he was in his mid-thirties and much, much meaner (he rips out someone’s ribs in the first chapter, then proceeds to beat the guy to death with it), but the core of him was there. While writing that MS, I would always get really excited when I had a scene to write for Bart, and knew early on that he deserved his own story.
When I first created Bart, I tried to think of all the demons I’d seen or read about, so I could have an idea of what NOT to do. I always try to come up with something different that I’ve never seen before. Someone else may have seen it before, but I haven’t, so I move forward with it. I didn’t want just a typical, evil, run of the mill demon, so I tried to think of what I’d be like as a demon and went from there.
I knew that after a while, I’d get really bored doing the same old, same old (corrupt souls, take over the world, etc.), and to break the monotony I’d make a game of everything. Have some fun with it. From there, I just turned up everything to 11; his sarcasm, his tastes, everything. The guy’s had more than a few millennia to figure out what he likes and dislikes. For THE BOOK OF BART, I knew readers wouldn’t want to spend 280+ pages with some horrible monster, so I lightened things up a bit. Bart’s still a scoundrel, but he’s in a place where he can’t be a typical demon. He’s on the outs with Hell, and he can either work with an angel (his polar opposite in every way), or endure an eternal punishment in Hell. I know where I want Bart to go, but I just tried to throw as many obstacles as possible in his way.
I enjoy exploring characters, but a lot of them are created in service of the story. I try to flesh all of them out, give them a personality, a purpose, an arc, but for me story is the most important thing. Without a good story, everything falls apart. Having great characters in a great story is the jackpot, and that’s what I aim for.
Growing up, Ryan Hill used to spend his time reading and writing instead of doing homework. This resulted in an obsession with becoming a writer, but also a gross incompetence in the fields of science and mathematics.
A graduate of North Caroline State University, Ryan has been a film critic for over five years. He lives in Raleigh, NC, with his dog/shadow Maggie. Ryan also feels strange about referring to himself in third person.
An excerpt from THE BOOK OF BART: