I now interrupt the regularly scheduled broadcast of the story behind my first “novel” to bring you another topic for Writers Reveal. This month’s topic was given by… drumroll, please… me! That’s right; the totally awesome idea behind all of March’s Writers Reveal posts came from this brilliant mind! Aaand that’s enough conceit. For now. On to the topic!
For this month’s round, I dished out the prompt “People of the Past, Characters of the Future”. After thinking a lot about what topic I should suggest, I decided to have everyone write about the people they’ve met and how they can become inspiration for fictional characters. Have fun reading everyone’s takes on this topic!
People of My Past
I came up with this subject while going through some of my creative writing materials. In one of my writing exercise books, “What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers“, I found an exercise titled “People from the Past: Characters of the Future”. The exercise is to write a detailed description of a person you knew between the ages of six and twelve, preferably someone whose memory still invokes strong negative feelings in you, followed by an account of what you imagine they’re doing today. The point of the exercise is to understand how the past can provide material for the imagination (and how writing a good story can sometimes be the best revenge).
This exercise caught my eye because I love taking time to seek inspiration for stories. However, instead of focusing on the specific guidelines in the book, I’d prefer to take it a step further and draw inspiration from all sorts of people I’ve known in my life. After all, being a writer who loves well-rounded characters and happy endings, the good people are usually the ones that make it into my stories.
So who exactly are these people who inspire my characters? Being a shy person by nature, I come in contact with relatively few people who leave a lasting impression on my life, and even fewer who leave enough of one to make it into my stories. Because of this, my characters are usually inspired by my family and closest friends. These are the people with whom I have a special connection, whose flaws I’ve seen just as much as their strengths, and who are constantly teaching me new things. The way I see it, they’re already characters in the story of my life, so why not give them a place in my fiction as well?
Characters of My Future (and Present)
Most of the inspiration I get from the people I know is for the relationships among my characters. Family ties, friendships and romantic relationships are all usually based on experiences I’ve had or witnessed in my life. For example, if you were to read all of my romance works, you’d probably notice that most of the love relationships I write have a foundation of friendship. This is because I’ve never had a boyfriend who wasn’t my friend first, and because that’s the reason my parents are happy together to this day. In a similar way, many of my characters have a very good relationship with their families, which is a reflection of my happy childhood and the good relationship I’ve always had with my parents and sisters.
If there’s a pattern I’ve noticed in my stories, it’s that my main characters are usually based heavily on my own qualities and ideals while my supporting characters tend to display more traits from other people in my life. This is probably most evident in the novel-length fanfiction I’ve been writing about for the past few weeks. In that story, the main female character is a shy yet strong-willed girl who greatly believes love should always overpower hate, and the main male character is a passionate and loving boy who simply wants the best out of life. Also, as I mentioned before, their love is based on friendship, which in this case was inspired by my relationship with my best friend/boyfriend.
Meanwhile, two supporting female characters – the male lead’s sister and cousin – may have been partly inspired by my sisters; they’re both smart and extremely loyal to family, the former is very neat and hard-working, and the latter is very charismatic and extroverted. The female lead’s best friend was definitely inspired by some school friends I haven’t seen in years, who were nice girls but who were much more superficial and boy-crazy than I was; and her cousin was likely inspired by some of my male friends from the past, who were certainly noble where it counted but who could sometimes be a little arrogant. All these real-life traits combined with some of my own ideas helped me flesh out these characters and give them depth, and I don’t think I could have accomplished that nearly as well without the inspiration I found in my family and friends.
It goes without saying that observing people is an excellent way to get new ideas for building fictional characters, and for that task, there’s probably no better material than the people who have left an impression on your life. So if you don’t already, pay close attention to the people you meet. You never know when they may become useful inspiration for your characters!
Do you use the people you meet as inspiration for your characters? How much of their personalities are based on those of people you know in real life?
This has been a special topic post for Writers Reveal, a monthly blog swap among several talented writers. Be sure to check out the other blogs participating in the event. Thanks for reading!
Other bloggers in Writers Reveal
Melissa Khalinsky: Melissa Writes
Becky Fyfe: Imagine! Create! Write!
Rhianna: A Parenting Life
Ashley Howland: Ghostnapped
Emily Hawker: You Learn Something New Every Day
Emily Toxward: Have A Laugh On Me