Monday, August 27, 2012

Character Inspiration

My Roomie is a male gargoyle.

At least on the page.

She’s the inspiration behind a tertiary character in my most recent story. A stone beast with a poor memory and an (only mildly irrational) animosity toward birds.

In real life, Roomie’s very different. She’s a human female with a poor memory and a slight wariness regarding birds.

See? Worlds apart.

When I went to the Backspace conference this past May, I had the opportunity to listen to several talented authors discuss the different ways they come up with characters. I was particularly interested in the conversations regarding how much they drew from the people around them. Some felt they based a lot of character developments on their friends and family. Others tried to avoid this as much as possible.

I’m not solidly on either end of this spectrum.

I don’t think I’ve ever written any character that was entirely modeled after any one person in my life, but I definitely have made choices based on specific traits or relationships of those around me. Roomie and my immediate family are the sounding boards for a lot of my initial character development. I will occasionally ask them all the same question and then see if any of their answers fit with the character I’m working on. Or sometimes I’ll just see a friend or family member react to something and think, That’s perfect for what’s that one character’s going through or That’s exactly how those two characters need to interact.

But there are a couple rules I try to hold myself to.

I take the good stuff from the people around me. The moments that inspire me. The most kick-ass traits and quirks that my loved ones possess. Those make it into my characters. My characters’ negative traits? Those come from me, from news stories, and from whatever happens to be the most frightening to me in the moment I’m writing.

And if I’m mocking someone on the page? Then I must be mocked too. It’s only fair.

Which is why, in the story, I’m a male gargoyle too. His memory’s great and he doesn’t have any issues with birds. But he is clumsy, out of shape, and has a tendency toward the dramatic.

Together, they are snapshots of the Roomie and me at our most buffoonish. The mythical equivalent of “bros.” And make me smile every time I think of them.

 A peek into my creative process.

How about the rest of you writers out there? Do any of your nearest and dearest ever make it on to the page?

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