Character history, Tenzin, and thoughts about writing schedules.

220px-BanpoSkullLate Sunday night, I wrote a bit of Tenzin’s backstory. Now, for those of you who have read the Elemental Mysteries and know how old Tenzin is, you know that’s a lot of backstory, most of it pretty dark. I may end up publishing all or part of this. I may end up not publishing it.

So why write it?

Everyone is different, but for me? I need to know what that story is. Right now, a lot of that character’s past is rattling around in my head. I can hear it. Smell it. It’s very real to me. The way I get rid of that feeling is by writing it down. So for me, backstory serves two purposes.

The primary one is to understand your character in a way that informs your writing. I don’t think you need to write the history of every character in your book; it’s just not necessary. But you should know what made them, if they’re important. Because their past informs their actions and how they interact with other characters. They should be real people to you, so that readers connect with them on the page. That’s my opinion, anyway.

20081209174141312279852507What’s the other reason? For me, it’s a process of working a character out from under my skin. With Tenzin, there’s a lot about her that I know, and a lot I don’t. There’s a lot of time that’s left in shadow, and I think there always will be. I know she’s a favorite character for a lot of people, but you’re never going to get the whole story about her. It’s just not going to happen, even when she gets her own books. That said, I do want to give you guys something.

(Also, if you’re re-reading, take note of what Gio says about Tenzin, because he’s probably the character who knows her best, even though he doesn’t know a lot. But they spent hundreds of years working together. Hint: Tenzin is a very unreliable narrator.)

Anyway, that’s where I am about that character and that story. And for those of you who keep asking me if Tenzin and Ben are going to “end up together” (I believe someone even coined the term ‘Benzin’ over on Facebook.) I get where you’re coming from, but I’m not going to tell you. Not. Going. To. Happen. I think it’s pretty clear that their fates are intertwined, but I’m not going to say how. You’re just going to have to be patient.

So, as of right now, writing schedule looks like this:

  • Finish second Irin book.
  • Start second Cambio Springs book.
  • murkymurkyblahblahblah
  • Dribs and drabbles about Tenzin’s past interspersed with all of the above.
  • (And I’m going to China next summer, so make of that what you will.)

Banpo_Xian_6473wI used to have schedules, you guys. Then, I had three fantasy series going on at the same time. So all I can tell you know is that I will write what’s occupying my brain and go where my passion leads. I had planned to be working on the second Cambio book right now, but when all I could think about was the Irin Chonicles, working on Cambio would have been stupid. That’s just the unpredictable way that my imagination works.

There are no formulas. If it’s going to be good, it’s going to just happen when it happens. Luckily, I still write fast, so no complaining about waiting for books. (That’s not cool.) I think most writers can relate to this. You can be as disciplined as you want, but if an idea takes over your brain, it’s not going away. And what I’ve found is that it’s the ideas you’re most passionate about that lead to the best stories.

And everyone wants the best story.

P.S. I keep wanting to do a post about some great audiobooks I’ve been listening to with SmallBoy, and I keep getting sidetracked. I’m going to try to get that up later this week.

Posted in Cambio Springs, Elemental Mysteries, Fiction, Irin Chronicles, Publishing, Tenzin, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , .


  1. I think that’s the best course of action — write what feels right at that moment. And at this instance, I’m very happy its the Irin Chronicles as it has been occupying my mind as well, and I can’t wait to hear more! Although, I’m intrigued with Tenzin too!

    When I started blogging, I was really looking for an outlet for my thoughts and feelings over books – I felt I couldn’t move on until I expressed my opinion, even if it was in a written form and no one would ever see it. It helped immensely. But sometimes I still find that I cannot let go of the book right away. Sometime because I didn’t feel inspired by it, but more often it is because I’m not ready to let go of it. I’ve actually finished the Scribe a few days back, but I’m not ready to talk about it just yet – I’m still “living” the story. 🙂

  2. That’s the awesome thing about working for yourself…you make your own deadlines!

    Looking forward to hearing what you and SB are listening to. I’m deep into audiobooks and I have really enjoyed a couple for kids, especially when they are narrated by the authors, like Neil Gaiman’s Odd and the Frost Giants and Cat Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making!

  3. So… one of the important things I got from what you said is “even when she gets her own books.” with an “S” as in books plural, not book singular. YEA US. So excited. And, I know you won’t say whether Ben and Tenzin mate. BUT, from the previous books, Tenzin has A LOT more patience and staying power with Ben than with anyone. She tolerates his presence very well. WRITE, WRITE, WRITE Elizabeth. Write in China about our beloved Tenzin. CANNOT WAIT to read those. And, even if you don’t “publish” her dark history per se…. will you put it on your blog for those of us to read that Love her character so much.

    I really want to know Tenzin’s perspective of Gio when they were mercinaries together, their meeting, and how she feels about him 500 years later. What are her thoughts on Carwin and his many children? Also, am sooooo curious about her “mating” with Bea’s father. Was that done out of some loyalty to Gio knowing she would be instrumental in the turning of Bea? Tenzin is the one that sent Gio to THAT liabrary in Houston for his transcribing where he met his soul mate. Did Tenzin send him for her reasons or for loyalty to Gio knowing that Bea would be his soulmate or do it for Bea’s father? So MANY Tenzin questions. She has to LOVE the youth in Ben since she was turned at such a young age herself. She had to be part of Gio’s life the 5 years he was “away” from Bea waiting for the “love of the woman” knowing Gio would take in Ben who would be HER SOUL MATE. I could ramble Tenzin questions for days…. 🙂

    I would also really like a book or books about Baojia and Natalie. A book that incorporated the “turning” of Natalie with their child(ren).

    YOU ARE TRULY A GIFTED WRITER. I need more, more, more please. 🙂

  4. its always better to be passionate about the current work as i feel it makes for a top ten read keep up the good work eagerly awaiting any of your books <3

  5. Your passion and devotion to your work is admirable! I am looking forward to your trip to China as I have come to learn that any of your trips = a great read for us! I’m waiting for my download of The Scribe and looking forward to Tenzin’s story.

  6. As a reader of your books for over a year now (and you’re also my favourite by a long way now) I think you write wonderfully and incredibly fast. No other author I follow has brought out so many books in such a short space of time. Whatever you’re doing its obviously working beautifully. For me whatever you give will be most gratefully received. Your books have given me more pleasure over the past year than I know how to describe. Very few authors inspire me to re read to the extent I have yours. I liken them a little to comfort food, you know a lovely pot roast or a chocolate cake, you never get tired of them and they never fail to comfort. I look forward to whatever is coming our way with great anticipation, sometimes the wait is almost as good as the actual event itself 🙂

  7. You write what you’re passionate about and it shows. We will just have to exercise patience and know that we will get a fabulous book out of it. Plus, I love all your books so it’s not really a hardship, it’s just hard when there’s more than one series by the same author who, while close to being superwoman, is not able to write that much for goodness sakes. You need to live too. 🙂 You are super talented and I can’t wait to read The Scribe when it comes out!!!!!!!!! I have pre-ordered of course. 😉

  8. I don’t care in what order your books come out for as long as you keep writing. I look forward to all your books! 🙂

  9. I have every book you have published and you are one of my favorite writers. I love your characters and the way you write just really sinks me into the story. It’s awesome!

    I just got the auto preorder of the first Irin book and look forward to starting it.
    I like the Cambrio springs novels also, but I’m suuuper happy you are still planning more Elemental books. Sometimes stories start to get stale but I loved Blood and Sand just as much as the first books. I’m so excited you are going to keep writing new stories for it. I personally loved the long lead in to Bea and Gio actually ‘getting together’ and if Tenzin’s story were to reflect the same anticipation (hint, hint :p ) it would be completely juicy! Yum!

    Thanks and happy writing!

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