Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Top questions for writers--Question #1

Many times, as a writer, I get some of the same questions over and over again, so as an FYI, I'm going to start a list of the top 10 questions I get as a writer---and any of you fellow writers are welcome to join in and give me your input.

Question #1--- Are your characters real, based on someone, or what?

In a country over- populated with lawyers, that's a dangerous question. But I think that the bottom line is that all characters (at least with me, anyway) are a combination of so many things. For example, a character may have A's sense of humor with B's good looks but C's crummy marriage. Of course, as a matter of courtesy, legal issues, etc. you need to realize that while someone may "inspire" a character, that doesn't mean that they are based upon them, and you need to realize that--as Thomas Wolfe learned--basing characters too closely on people can still cause you inconveniences at the very least.

Personally, in the South, I don't think there's any shortage of inspiration for characters. I think it also should be noted that once you get these characters "started"-- they just kind of take on a life of their own...

Any other ideas? Comments?


billie said...

Hey, Dawn... good series you've started - I'm looking forward to the rest of the questions!

In my first novel, some of the characters started out based on folks I had known, but over the course of editing, and finding the "real" story, the characters changed and became very distinct and different than they were initially.

The second novel characters just created themselves - very intently, almost without my help.

A fascinating thing that happens with my characters is that I write them, fully, and later on they show up in my life as real people. It still blows my mind when this happens.

I sort of think there's a novel there, but I haven't written that one yet!

Carole Mehle said...

Dawn asked: "Are your characters real, based on someone, or what?"

The answer seems to be yes. :) My thesis director introduced me to an idea by Robin Hemley called "transformation" that he swears I never fully mastered -- we can base the character on a real person, but the real person shouldn't be able to tell it's them. My writing tends to be a way for me to filter or process the world -- and we come across some strange beings, at least I do.

Some of my characters are based on someone, such as the unrequited crush who done me wrong and his alcoholic best friend I dated. They've turned up in several pieces. Then there's the arrogant teacher (Guess who that one is, Dawn). Dawn's met my characters Trevor and Colin, who are based on real people she and I will be exchaging oxygen with on May 21.

Some of my characters are some unexplored facet of myself; I don't think it's vanity on part of the writer necessarily, just something a writer does. Some of the characters that are partly me are Vickie, my female baseball player; Claudia, who moved from being a reporter for a small-town newspaper to a successful novelist; and Emilia, a community college instructor whose former conquest becomes a co-worker. My character Susannah is a more carefree version of me, I think.

Cole, Woody, and Shane, my baseball players, don't really seem to be based on anyone in particular, but I'm sure someone might say they are since I have tried to make them as real as possible. As Billie said, they become distinct from what they initially were.

Jordan Rose is one of my favorite characters who is a total fabrication of my imagination; he's everything I wish a guy could be!

I think all fiction writers need a "Careful -- or you'll end up in my novel" t-shirt.

See, I told you the answer was yes.