Friday, 19 February 2016

Who do you know?


Are you a fiction writer? If so, who are your characters? Where did you meet them? How do you know them?

It's true that every character is influenced by someone you've met or you know, but how much?  It's an interesting question and something that a lot of writers I know struggle with.

We all have a reservoir of information from which we draw our characters - it's like a reference library of sorts. But are we really influenced by our reference people, or inspired by them?

When you first start out in writing, it's always suggested that you, write what you know. That is to say, because I don't know the first thing about the physics of the universe, I wouldn't be writing about wormholes.

Similarly with characters, we reference what we know. I copped some criticism in a review once about the colour of one of my character's eyes. In Torn, Patrick has very intense green eyes. The reviewer wrote that the colour I described was impossible and it ruined the character for her.

Ah, that was unfortunate! The idea for the colour of Patrick's eyes came from a young man whom I used to know, and he really did have these incredible eyes! Any other reference to my friend would have been purely accidental on my part.

But how much do you rely on the people around you, and yourself, when developing a new character? And it's not just the way the character looks, it is their personality as well.

A lovely lady I know from my local cafe, after reading Torn, said, "Oh I could tell which character you are!"


Other readers have asked me which character was based on Stuart, my husband. They're both surprised and disbelieving when I tell them that there is no character based on Stuart.

Seriously, I did not write myself, or anyone else I know, into that book, but clearly, personality traits and other facets of me and the people around me are there - impossible not be.

I believe it's important, as a writer, not to inflict my personal beliefs onto my readers. I've always said that I write the sorts of books that I would like to read. I enjoy fiction that takes me to another world, where I can escape the realities of work and commitment to invovle myself in the lives and loves of fictional characters.

Is there anything more annoying, than being in the middle of an enjoyable book and the writer decides to go all preachy? All of a sudden you're jolted out of the fictional world and back to 2016 ... with a crash.

What do I do? Well I close the book, of course, and might even get on Goodreads and write a review about it.

In real life, I am a strict vegetarian yet the characters in my books eat meat. I also have views and opinions that my readers neither care about nor want to know about, and fair enough too!

That's not what fiction is for. The Merriam-webster online dictionary defines fiction as, something invented by the imagination, or feigned.

I'm going to write more about developing characters - there's a little trick I have that I will share with you in my next post.

So, until next week, if you're developing a new character, go sit in a cafe with a notebook and look at the people around you. Does someone have interesting hair? Is that an infectious laugh? What kinds of noses can you see?

Jot down anything that attracts your attention - describe it in your own words, but be warned: it's impolite to stare!
Coffee and people watching - two of my favourite sources of inspiration!


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