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Thursday, July 2, 2009
Creating Characters from the Good and the Not-So-Good
In Shrinking Violet, Tere has a crush on a cute “nice” guy, Gavin. After reading the book, an old friend that I hadn’t talked to in over twelve years, emailed me and said she was dying to know who was my Gavin in high school. Sadly I had to answer that I did not have a Gavin, nothing close to him, but I sure wished I did. Rather I told her that he was created from a bunch of nice cool guys that I’ve meet over the years, including my husband.
So far none of my characters are directly modeled after one person, but I do pull from all directions to shape them into who they are. It’s like a good soup, I take a little spice form here, chop up this vegetable and that one, until I have the perfect combination. If something is too flat or one-dimensional, I just keep on adding more spice until I have it right.
I’d love to hear from other authors how they go about selecting their characters but so far for me, I’ve created mine from bits and pieces of things I’ve learned from or about people over the years. If I meet someone totally outrageous I file that encounter into my memory bank and hope to be able to fit them into a story one day. It almost makes those encounters more bearable because you can say, at least I can use this in my book!
This certainly applies to the crazy lady at the Samurai restaurant tonight. My kids were playing with a few toys on a table in the waiting area of the restaurant, One of my sons walked around the lady to retrieve his toy that had fallen and she barked, “You stay on your side and we’ll stay on ours.” It was our anniversary and my husband and I didn’t want this crazy lady ruining it so we chose to ignore her. Then of course when they called us to our table, we were supposed to sit with crazy lady and her family because it’s one of those restaurants where they cook in front of you and everyone sits together. She immediately complained and got moved to another table.
It turns out, we had a great dinner and my kids were very well-behaved. Much more than I could say for crazy lady. When we got up to leave we walked by her yelling at the manager, “Either the waiter is going to get stiffed or you are. Now take that off my bill!” She left red-faced and angry and we couldn’t help but laugh. And then I thought, to top it off, she’d make a great character in one of my books. For now she’s stuffed into my memory bank but one day she may resurface. So my advice, whenever anyone ticks you off, just pass it off as character research!