Welcome to the Wise Not Withered Podcast, Season 2: the Character Showcase! Today I will be talking about Huan Ling, the 96-year-old Traveling Model. I am currently battling a particularly intense flu and will most likely go to sleep right after recording this, so please bear with my sniffly, congested voice today.
The last two weeks featured wise women with complex, emotional stories. One of the great things about this project is that there is so much variety! Huan Ling's story is very light-hearted and simple, but it still does a great job showing how rich and wonderful one's life becomes the more time goes by.
I actually found the illustrator first for this character. Suyu Chen was one of the very first artists I recruited about a year ago, and I honestly can't remember how I found her. She was the first person to reply to my cold email agreeing to join the Wise Not Withered artist team! Suyu tried out lots of different styles, from hand-drawn to image collage to digital graphic design. We ultimately went with her digital, colorful, vivacious, and angular illustrations.
Nicole Page was the writer for Huan Ling's story. I found her on Instagram, using some kind of "travel" hashtag, and she was one of about forty women that I had messaged that day, inviting them to write a story about a Traveling Model. I really loved the vibe I got from her page, called "Beautiful Soul Nicole", and I honestly thought that maybe she'd be too cool to answer me! So I was thrilled when I received a response from her. I heard back from only two people regarding this character, so it was definitely one of my more stamina-and-character-building cold-email-sending days.
The story Nicole wrote is absolutely endearing and very charming! I knew I wanted the Traveling Model story to be about a fashionable grandmother and her photographer grandson, but it wasn't until I was emailing Nicole back about the story that the entire outline just poured out of me. She had asked about the story I envisioned, and this is what I came up with as I was answering her:
Key desired plot points: Establishment and development of grandmother-grandson relationship.
1) When Grandson is born, Main Character (Grandma) relives the thrill of having a baby again, in addition to becoming a grand-mother and accepting another view of her own daughter and herself.
2) Grandson grows up, idolizing his grandmother, a supermodel. Establish bits of their personalities.
3) Grandson hits a pivotal turning point in his life (high school graduation, or first romantic relationship break-up, first job, or even in early teen years with hormonal mood swings, etc.) and stops talking to Grandma as much.
4) Grandson discovers love for photography in college, reaches out to grandma again since she is still a model and in photo business (I also envisioned Grandma being the former CEO of Instagram or a fictional equivalent of a high-tech multi-billion dollar social media company, maybe retiring before Grandson was born). They connect as adults for the first time, discussing careers, life events, etc.
5) Grandma invites Grandson to tour with her to the next three locations she’ll be modeling. He takes professional photos of her at her fashion shows as well as selfies together.
The story that Nicole came up with is told like a theater screenplay, mostly dialogue with bits of third-person narration in between each section. Like I said at the beginning of this episode, it's been so much fun to see the wide variety of writing styles that these women brought to the table.
We chose the name Huan Ling to reflect Suyu's Taiwanese heritage, and Kevin as the grandson's name, to reflect Nicole's American heritage. Both Suyu and Nicole have extensive histories when it comes to traveling the world: Nicole was born in North Carolina, moved to New Hampshire, then to New York, studied abroad in Russia and visited the UK, France, and Italy. She also went to Peru for shamanism, and now she lives in Ecuador! Nicole has an inspiring story of her journey into yoga and healing herself from anxiety and addiction. She wrote a book called "Bite-Size Yoga: A Better Way to Beat Burnout". Check it out on Amazon here!
Suyu grew up in Taiwan, has traveled to Japan, Singapore, Palau, Malaysia, Dubai, Amsterdam, Italy, China, Hong Kong, Seattle, and New York, and she's lived in England, Canada, and now Iceland. Suyu wanted to fight against the stereotype that models are shallow and brainless and only care about appearances. I think we all succeeded in allowing that idea shine through.
Stay tuned for more Wise Not Withered character showcases, releasing every Sunday until the end of April, 2020!