Some of the questions I'm most often asked by readers and aspiring writers are about my characters. Specifically, how do you come up with them and are they based on real people? So without further adieu:
HOW DO YOU COME UP WITH YOUR CHARACTERS?
I don’t come up with my characters so much as they come up to me!
My characters tend to arrive in my imagination fully intact, complete with their first, middle, and last names. Though I will admit, I changed my hero of The Treasures of Venice, Keirnan Fitzgerald’s middle name. My First Reader, whom I've known for over 30 years, told me she’d always been very fond of the name Sean. So in deference to her, I changed his name from Keirnan Padriag Fitzgerald to Keirnan Sean Fitzgerald. Luckily he didn’t mind.
When my characters arrive, they tend to tell me all kinds of things about themselves. Quite handy, though I know it sounds bizarre to people who don't write. We writers are very possessive about their characters. We spend a lot of time with them (some of it very intimate!) and they become very real to us. In essence, they are all ‘our babies.’ Most writers know many, many more things about their characters than ever appears on the pages of the book.
ARE YOUR CHARACTERS BASED ON REAL PEOPLE?
Well… yes and no. Since these are my babies, there’s a little bit of me in all my characters! Sometimes there’s a little bit of people I know, or have met, or read about…
So far, the character I’ve written who is the most like me, is the hero’s bossy older sister in The Wild Sight. When my own sister read the book for the first time, she said she cracked up because it was so obvious to her that Doreen was based on me.
I also named three secondary characters in The Wild Sight after my son and two of my nieces. They all got a laugh out of it. And a secondary character in The Treasures of Venice is named and modeled after a good friend of mine who happens to have a cool Italian name. She was very flattered, but we'll see what she says after she reads the entire book.
Also be careful what you wish for! I do write romantic suspense after all.
My niece’s husband wanted me to name a character after him, so I did, in my current work-in-progress, The Wild Irish Sea. Unfortunately, his namesake character meets a rather nasty end in the first four pages of the story! SHHHH! He doesn’t know yet!
And YES! I do have “models” for the main characters. When my characters arrive in my imagination, I usually have a pretty good ‘picture’ of what they look like. I usually go on an internet search for find pictures of celebrities to match those pictures in my head. A tough job, but somebody's gotta do it. All in the name of ‘visual inspiration’ of course!
I don’t always widely broadcast who provides my visual inspiration, because I know that as a reader, I like to have my own ‘picture’ of the characters when I read. That was one of my biggest fears when I went to see The Lord of the Rings movies. I loved those characters so much and I was just sure the actors cast in the roles were not going to live up to the images I’d carried in my head all these years. I must admit that except for a preponderance of pointy ears (Tolkien never described any of his characters as having pointed or otherwise unusual ears!), I was very pleased with almost every major cast member. Okay, I was especially pleased with Aragorn.
Now it's your turn! If you are a writer, how do you come up with your characters? Are they based on real people? And if you are a reader, do you like to know who served as the authors 'visual inspiration' for a character? Or do your prefer to find your own models? For everyone, have you ever had a favorite book turned into a movie and the actors were totally right or totally wrong?