Whew! It's been a long while since I last did this! But never mind, let's carry on!
The second most prominent character in my book is referred to as 'the warrior woman' at some points in The Keeper of Pulau Purba. Nur Aidah Binte Da'wud, but she's almost always referred to as Aidah.
A Malay ex-professional soldier who volunteered to be on the reserves despite the law requiring only the men to do so. She's spunky, she's brave and witty at times, and she's a maverick who defied authority when it is wrong. I guess it's pretty obvious here what I'm going for. The prevalent strong woman character that feminists love - That anyone with a decent way of thinking and life would accept.
But that wasn't what I was thinking when I conceived of the character. I am not a feminist, and neither do I just go with the flow and write what is popular. I am more of an 'equalist', holding both men and women with equal regard.
No, the character is based on a group of three Malay women I met while on summer holiday, back when I was just a humble university student. It was at the conclusion of my second year, I believe, and I needed the money. So I ended up in a newly-opened warehouse with an endless amount of aggravating administrative problems. I was hired alongside a few Malay women.
They are all divorced, two have children to feed, and one of them (as far as I know) suffered the most vile and inhumane abuse. Her husband fled without paying her maintenance after the court case and divorce.
But one other thing they have in common is that they are rejects of the Malay community. Two of them, I think, is ostracised because they have Chinese blood in them. With one of them, it resulted in a kind of mixed-race beauty. She's a wonderful gal, a strong single mother who could stand on her own, but she was certainly suffering. She's only a year older than me. I might have fallen for her then, but I didn't want to be unprofessional even if I was just a temporary worker. It helped that she, well... I'll leave it up to your imagination.
But Aidah's personality came from a pure Malay girl with an attitude. An individualist, she had no qualms about doing things her way and expressing what she felt and thought. She'd 'given her husband back to his mother', I quote, and lives in a rented room. I saw a Facebook post from her lamenting a rejection from a guy she was chasing.
I wasn't close to her by any means, but I felt for her the same way I felt for the others. She's probably the girl who would have won me over from the Miss Mixed-Descent if things had gone the way of a soppy romantic-drama series. But alas, I'm no Casa Nova and I'm hopeless when it comes to romance. I'll probably die alone and be found two weeks later by the police all juicy and taken apart, chewed up half-way to oblivion by rats, cockroaches and ants.
*Clears throat* Anyway, let's get back on track.
So yes, Aidah is an amalgamation of these 3 women. I'd forgotten their names, even though I promised myself to remember them, but yes, Aidah is made up of Girl #1's tragedy, Girl #2's *ahem* romantic potential and strong maternal instinct and Girl #3's personality and mannerism. There's some overlap.
If you're a writer, the take-away from this is that inspiration can come from anywhere, including the people around you, and it is only when you get to know them that you'll be able to get to it, and of course, live a full live. Don't spend all your time in one room, banging away (on your laptop) 16 hours a day.
If you're a reader (which most, if not all, writers are), then know this: there's always a basis in reality for fiction. Your favourite character may be real somewhere sometime as an alternate version. Just ask J. K. Rowling about Snape and you'll know.
And for anyone with a husband or wife, be a good spouse, okay? It's no good to anyone if abuse or some deep shit happens.
Have a good day, Brian J. W. Lee signing off.