I’ve heard about authors who base their characters on real people. Call me crazy, but I’ve never done that. Real people are just… weird. I think the word I’m searching for is complicated. Real people are a contradictory mess, they’re always changing ideas and motivations – I don’t know what I’m doing half the time. If you put that in a book, it would be too confusing. No, the most we can take from real life is bits and pieces. But often I don’t even do that. I don’t need to.
It might sound cute when authors say their characters just walk into their heads, fully formed. Sure, it’s cute. But it sure isn’t cute when they won’t shut up. I can’t tell you the number of nights I’ve lain awake besieged by characters acting out their little dramas, eventually forced to hop out from under the covers (this is especially annoying if it’s winter and I’m nice and warm) and scribble it down just to get a moment’s peace. But then another voice will pipe up, saying “What if? What if? I could do this…”
At times like these, I sympathize with a fellow writer who killed all of her characters off. Painfully.
On the other hand, I treasure these ready made characters. Some just speak – writing a scene with them is easy, and the only problem is typing fast enough. Their voice is clear and original, you know exactly where you’re going with them… it’s great.
And then there’s those ones you can’t breathe life into. Everyone’s probably run into some of these. The chronically dull. No matter what you do, you can’t make the stupid character interesting. You imagine that, in their daily lives, they spend their time staring at blank walls and watching paint dry. When writing with them, you have to drag the words out of their unresponsive bodies. (Ok… that was a weird image, but I’m going with it.) But for some reason, whether plot significance, or simply that you need their POV, you can’t scrap them. It makes you appreciate the talkative ones.
So for any writers out there reading this, how do your characters come to life? Is my way normal… or am I schizophrenic after all?
Edit: The comments appear to have turned themselves off. I can’t figure out how this happened or how to undo it, so sorry…