Writing original characters–or not

Who is itIt seems like readers are forever asking writers, “Is xxxx character you?” My published writing friends get this question, even I have gotten this question from my few pre-publication readers. My mom confessed to trying to figure out who ALL the characters were in The Memory of Drowning and then finally gave it up.

That’s one of the funny things about writing. You’re not supposed to use real people, but of course real people influence your characters. When you finally get to read Miracle in a Dry Season next summer you can know that Perla isn’t me. Neither is she my mother or grandmother or anyone else exactly. Then again, she’s all of us. And Casewell is my dad, brothers, husband, and so on.

I don’t think to myself, now I’m going to write a character based on my grandmother. But I might give that character her kind-heartedness or her knack for making pies. A male character might be tall with dark hair like my dad, a female character might have my mom’s hair. Sometimes it’s on purpose and sometimes I realize later that a character reminds me, say, of someone at church.

No, none of the characters in my books are me. Or anyone else, for that matter. But as King Solomon mentioned some few thousand years ago, there’s nothing new under the sun. So if I know you look out. Your eyes or your laugh or your love for antiques might very well end up in one of my books.

7 thoughts on “Writing original characters–or not

  1. Ahem. Antiques? I can quit any time. I can. Uh huh. Just watch me…drool and hug a bow front tiger oak dresser with Victorian lines and a smooth feel…oops. Sorry…

    I did take the eville, EVILLE character out of my MS, simply because I had to cut word count. But she was definitely named after the most cruel person I’ve ever known.

  2. Love this, Sarah. My characters in my first book don’t really “look like” any one person I know. However, they do have attributes of people I know. Oh, and my villain for my first book? Her name was taken from two people who were very difficult to get along with (to say the least). This is a fun post. 🙂

  3. Well, if I see a former security contractor who takes in every homeless dog he sees in one of your books, I’ll have an idea where he came from.

    My characters are certainly part of me, but I’ve never based a character on anyone, except physically. The character of Scott Everton in “Blessed Are the Pure of Heart” ‘looks like’ Kevin Costner, and uses some of his verbal ‘tics’. Why, I don’t know.

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