This week's question was asked by Beth Nagy! Beth's won a $5.00 Amazon coupon to spend on any book she wants! Get in touch with us, Beth, so we can send you your coupon.
Here is her question: How do you decide on characters? Are they a composite of people you have known or admire/dislike?
Cynthia Hickey: I usually have a thought, see a picture, or hear something that triggers a story idea. Then, I think, "Who would be the perfect character for this story?" All of my characters have bits and pieces of me, my family, and my friends. Villains might have some of a person who annoyed me at the time I was designing the story cast :)
Marji Laine: That's a good question! I've toyed with getting a tee-shirt that says, "Be nice or you'll wind up the villain in my next novel." I've never actually based anyone on a real person, though. I do pull snatches of experiences from my life or things I've seen as I'm creating depth in my character, but I usually start with hair models. I know that sounds crazy, but I look online for a person who has nearly the same hair style and eye color that I'm picturing in my head, then I build a life for them.
E.E. Kennedy: In the first book in my mystery series, I patterned a character after somebody I didn’t like very much when we were teenagers and made them the villain. (Of course, I was sure they wouldn’t recognize themselves.) However, more recently, I became re-acquainted with them online and realized that they had grown into a very nice person. There’s a lesson in there, somewhere.
Another character, Vern Thomas, was only supposed to be a young cab driver, rating about two paragraphs, but as I wrote the story, he almost demanded to be an important part of it. At his insistence, I made him the nephew of an important character and he is in all four of the Miss Prentice Cozy Mysteries.
I’ve heard that fiction writers often find that their characters seem to take on a life of their own. I can tell you, it’s true!
Nancy Mehl: I think our characters have to be born from who we know. Many times, they include quite a bit of our own personalities. To create characters readers can understand, we must understand them as well. Of course, I’ve written about serial killers. That doesn’t mean I know or truly comprehend serial killers! LOL! But I do understand anger, selfishness, fear and greed. I can draw from those emotions to give life to my “bad guy.”
Our best characters are those who strike a chord with our readers. I try to get into my characters’ heads before I add them to my story. That way, readers can quickly identify with them. Once they have a clear vision of the characters, they can relax into my story.