I write fiction. That means my story and characters are all made up. Nothing is real. Right?
Yeah, that’s what I thought, too.
When I set out to create my characters, I had a few specific goals in mind. I wanted them to feel like real people, and they needed to be distinctly different from one another. I wanted the reader to have a clear picture of which characters were in a scene, based on what they said, how they said it, and the way they acted.
For the most part, I think I’ve pulled it off, and I get a lot of compliments on the way my characters “jump off the page.” You’ll be able to decide for yourself in a few weeks when I start to introduce them.
My primary objective, though, was to create characters who were not like me. I originally thought I’d succeeded, but now I’m not so sure.
After several months of playing with my imaginary friends, I began to feel like I really knew these people… and, not just because I’d spent more time with them than I had with my family or real friends.
I realized all of my female characters had a trait I could identify with. A small piece of me. Good, bad, or evil.
Some are suppressed characteristics, my inner voices that I choose keep hidden or wish I could let out, but I recognized them in my ladies. Danni, my main character, is timid. Kendra is brash. Jen is nurturing. Kristi is a bit of a flake. Alexia, well… some things are best left unsaid.
Some people who’ve already read parts of my novel seem to get the impression I’m Danni, and I can understand how that may have happened. I like reading stories told in first person (I, me, my), so that’s how I write. And I like to immerse myself in my characters, imagine myself in their place, to capture their emotions and share them with the reader.
Danni and I are very different, and my novel is definitely not a story about me. This says a lot about the believability of my characters though, and that’s pretty exciting. I accomplished what I set out to do.
As I continued writing, I began to notice more similarities. Tiny details about other people in my life had been pulled from my mental files and plugged into different characters, male and female, without consciously making the decision—phrases, attitudes, reactions, gestures, and so forth. I won’t mention specific details, and I’m sure there are others I haven’t discovered yet.
Now, before you get egotistical or paranoid, I should probably explain that these are small pieces of a character’s overall personality. There is one character I created with a real person in mind, the rest—sorry to disappoint—are fictional. You’ll need to read my book when it’s released to see if a little piece of you influenced my creativity.
There’s an expression that says, “Write what you know.” It’s intended to mean a writer should choose a topic they are familiar with, and write about that. When it comes to characters, I guess I tend to “Write who I know.”
So, “Thank you,” to my amazing friends and family for inspiring me to create interesting and realistic characters. –CJ