Friday, August 29, 2014

Where Do Our Ideas Come From? And Our Characters?

Recently a friend told me that someone we both used to work with refused to read my books.  When my friend asked this person why, he said it was because he was afraid he’d be in them.  And not in a good way!

I was pretty surprised to hear this.  Partially because this person is very nice, and has nothing to fear if someone ever decided to write about him.  But mainly because I don’t usually “put” people in books!  Characters show up, or are created, and they generally seem to be people in their own right, with their own history, quirks, faults, and needs.

It got me thinking about what parts of real life show up in my stories.  And I realized that my new book, More Than a Rancher, has a lot of real life in it, but it’s the experiences I have in life that make their way into my stories, a lot more than the people I meet.



For example, my heroine is a ballroom dance teacher, an experience I briefly had, but she teaches all the dances, while I just stuck to Lindy Hop and other dances from the forties.  She competes, while I was never that good! 

My hero has a little brother who is fourteen years old.  I was a junior high administrator and loved working with young teenagers.  But is Paul based on any one student?  Absolutely not.  It’s more the essence of Paul, the enthusiasm, the passion for his dreams, the surprising bits of wisdom and the retreats into sullen silence or juvenile humor, that comes from the kids I knew.

And both my hero and heroine struggle with the impact of alcoholism in their lives, albeit in different ways.  I grew up living with an alcoholic, but she’s not in this book.  But what I know about the disease, and the frustrations and pain of watching someone struggle with it, did find its way into the story.

I told my friend to please reassure our former colleague that he is in no danger of being put in one of my books.  And then another thought occurred to me.  If people think they might be in my books, do they wonder if I am there too?  Do they think that I have met these incredible cowboys, ridden the mountains with them, and experienced all the romance and passion that I write about?  How wonderful!


How would you feel if someone made you a character in their book?  And if you are a writer, have you ever based a character on a person that you know? Do you put real people in your books?  

6 comments:

Kaelee said...

I'm not a writer just a reader. I know writers draw from their experiences. In a few reader letters, some authors have said that they based a certain character on someone or some pet that they know or knew.

I don't lead an interesting enough life to be in a book. An author did include my name in a book dedication and Kaelee was the name of a very minor character in another author's book. my two seconds of fame.

Mary Preston said...

I don't think I would be very comfortable recognising myself in a book.

Debbie Herbert said...

I just use bits and pieces of "real" people to keep myself out of trouble. :)

marelou said...

That would be very interesting to see how my sedate, normal life is viewed from a different perspective.

Tammy Yenalavitch said...

My cats were in a Harlequin book. Operation Baby Rescue by Beth Cornelison. I am not sure if i would want a character to be based on me. Maybe!

Claire McEwen said...

Hi! Thanks for your comments! I agree Mary, I think it would be pretty unsettling to recognize myself in a book. And Debbie, I like the idea of keeping out of trouble for sure! ;-) Kaelee, after I read your comment, I read Marelou's - and it is interesting to think about how our lives would be viewed from someone else's perspective. But yes, when I think of mine ( hanging out with my son, doing chores, tapping away at my computer,) it doesn't seem exciting enough to make a good story! Tammy, that is SO cool. Your kitties are famous! Love it! Did you get a photo with your cats and their book?

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