You talk about your characters as they were real people.
Two people said this to me recently, both in one day. Each had asked what my manuscript was about and, as always, I was thrilled to have an audience. I was so engrossed in talking about the individuals in my book, about the personas I’d created and lived with for the past few years, that the comment surprised me. Both times. It took a couple beats to register what they were saying. That these people I’ve grown to love are merely characters. They’re not real. But if they’re not real, why do they seem so authentic, I wondered.
It’s because, in a way, they are real. They’re every friend I’ve ever had. They’re every man I’ve ever dated. They’re my family, my co-workers, even my pets. My characters are the composites of all the people I’ve loved, all the people I’ve known, all the people that have had even the slightest impact on my life.
My heroine came from the women I know who have suffered a betrayal by the men they loved, only to move on to a happier place, find something or someone better, something they couldn’t imagine at the time. The emotions are raw and ragged and real because I saw their pain, empathized with their suffering, and I can also draw upon my own past and retrieve feelings of loss and disappointment.
The hero in my manuscript is all the great men I’ve known. My hero’s actions and behaviors and insights are a combination of things I’ve observed the men in my life do and say. The arrogant attitude of my self-absorbed antagonist is an amalgam of a certain narcissus I once knew and myself when I’m in a less than steller mood.
While I have, for the most part, heeded the advice of not using real people in my writings, I have included one person, an elderly man I pass on the sidewalk on my way to work. I don’t know his name and the only words we’ve exchanged is the occasional “good morning,” but his interesting appearance and reserved demeanor intrigued me to the point that I wrote him into my manuscript. It’s just a cameo appearance, but I like that he’s in there, this man I’ll never really know. This man who’ll never realize his persona has been captured in a book.
So, to the people who said, You talk about your characters as if they were real people, I say, You’re right. They are very real. Thank you for noticing.
Please join the conversation by hitting the comment button and telling us how you make your characters come alive.