Friday, August 5, 2011

Making up people

Once upon a long time ago, I went to college. All was fine and dandy until my friend and roommate discovered that I liked to write. Once that tidbit of info was out, she began to demand that I write her "really awesome stories" every day. I guess that she knew--before even I knew--that my calling in life was to be a writer. Not, as I proclaimed my freshman year, a lawyer or a diplomat or a psychologist. (Heck, writing encompasses all of that anyways, am I right?) 

It had always been a passion, but I really started getting serious about writing in college largely due to the stories I opted to keep writing to please my roommate. (Best writing prompt ever? "Write me a story where I'm a beautiful princess and DON'T MAKE ME A DITZ.")

However, sometimes my dear friend saw herself in places where she was never meant to be. She has red hair, so when I wrote about a really mean person with red hair, she'd immediately ask, " that me?!" She was also a biology major, so all mad scientists also got a "Hey! Is that me?!" Even if she was very obviously written as a beautiful princess, the antagonistic dragon I had in the background was pointed out with a "WHY'D YOU MAKE ME A LIZARD?"


The point is that despite any authorial intent, we may see ourselves in various characters from time to time whether it's flattering or not. And once our written work has passed into someone else's hands, whether it be a crit partner, beta reader, agent, editor or a someone who got your book for their birthday, people will start seeing themselves in YOUR characters. Exciting, right?

Of course there are thousands of ways to get inspiration for characters (I'm gonna leave this link right here so don't blame me if you click on it and wake up four hours later from your trope-coma: CHARACTERS) But how you come up with your characters--whether it be from personal inspiration or, like Athena, they pop out of your godlike-head fully formed--is a completely personal process.

Any cool character stories? How did you come up with your hero or your villain? Are they an amalgamation of every awful gym teacher you've ever had or a thinly veiled college roommate or someone completely new? Let's hear it!

True story*: The Rise of the Planet of the Apes was based off of Romeo and Juliet. James Franco and Shakespeare were roommates in college.

*this is not a true story


dolorah said...

I do base my characters off a variety of people I've met or read about. And then add a situation for them to deal with that explores their character strengths and faults.

Yeah, some of my characters have distinct traits that are mine, or someone in my family/friends. Hey, gotta use what's available, right? :)


K. Marie Criddle said...

Hey, Donna! I agree, it's sometime best to use what's available rather than reinvent the wheel entirely. As my grade school teacher once said, "the best ideas come from the work, not the head." Here's to hoping they don't recognize themselves, though... :D

Peggy Eddleman said...

I never seem to have a specific person in mind when I create a character. Sometimes, I really wish I had, though! Then I could just think what that PERSON would do, instead of having to figure out what my CHARACTER would do. Sigh. I think maybe there's a part of me that just really likes reinventing the wheel.

K. Marie Criddle said...

I think that's great!! You know, that's sometimes the BEST part of a manuscript though...inventing someone completely new to take on an adventure! It's easier to find someone for inspiration, but when has doing things the easy way been the MO of a writer?

Keriann Greaney Martin said...

I don't really base my characters on any particular person. Then I'll notice similarities between my character and a real person, which is cool and helpful but also I'm thinking "whoops". They tend to just pop out with their own quirky personality just when I need them. And when I need to know what they would do in a situation, I start pantsing and then they tell me!

Queen 'Bina said...

I've never written a character based on a real-life person. When I sit down to write, it just never occurs to me to write a story about so-and-so doing such-and-such from my real-life experiences. I do believe that my collective personal experiences seep into my creative brain and come out unintentionally in my characters/plots/whathaveyou.

By the way- the Archive's new motif looks fabulous! Give my compliments to the designer.

K. Marie Criddle said...

Keri - having read some of your characters thus far, I LOVE the quirky personalities they pop out with! And yay pantsing! I'm trying to do that with one character now but it's Need some lessons.

Robin - So, I wish my characters spoke so completely to me! That's really cool. Sometimes I have to draw real life things in intentionally, just to keep the development moving. The characters I write about are just as lazy as me when it comes to personal progress, it seems.

And thanks! Does the background look like an old book or denim? We were just discussing this...