My Hero — My Heroine — My Characters

Every story has a main character or two. A villain, a hero, a heroine. Good guys, bad guys, and gals. Even your short stories have girls and guys in various stages of love, hate, and madness. You have every nuance of their character figured out — their personality, their hair, their habits.

All of our characters are based on people we know: characters in movies, old paramours, cousins, those who have done us harm. Our characters — good and evil — all come from somewhere inside of us.

So tell me — who are your characters based on? How many famous people resemble your purely self-created stars? Sometimes I have exactly someone in mind. Other times, I find a weird resemblance to someone I’ve come across in my life.

My first novel. Heroine — some version of  me. But not visually. Characters based on some weird, maniacal version of me always are the hardest to visualize. The closest match is kinda like Susan Sarandon but 30 pounds heavier. In her mid-40s. The hero — he’s got to have dark hair and dark eyes, and a slight rough beard. Maybe Doctor Connor Rhodes from Chicago Med. Just the right amount of fuzz on the chin. The matriarch — definitely Maggie Smith. And the pompous ass son — Frank Kennedy from Gone With the Wind. Second novel –same main characters. Add a doctor — Michael Douglas with beard and glasses, and a snotty girlfriend — the latest Carol Markus of Star Trek — and you’ve got some attitude.

Second set of novels — heroine — again, some wacky, astral version of myself. This time with shorter red hair in the first novel and spikey purple hair in the second. I did see a pic of Susan Sarandon with both the red hair and glasses, so she’ll do. The hero — more of Derek Jacobi in Gladiator. The king, definitely Aragon from Lord of the Rings. Consul Tresarrio — definitely Jafar from Aladdin, and Consul Corvenius — Ian Holm, Father Vito Cornelius from the Fifth Element.

There you go. Barred my soul, gave away my secrets.

There’s not always an identifiable face in your stories, but there’s nothing wrong with it, either. Gives you something to focus on, if only briefly. The characters then take over, flowering and winding their vines into their own version of reality.

I’d love to hear if any of your characters resemble anyone real or pretend. It doesn’t matter if you’re published or if you write poetry or haikus — I’d just love to hear your interpretation of your people.

Tell me Tell me Tell me! Do you have a Rhett or an Angelina in your world?

 

Does Your Main Character Look Familiar?

JESSFBDSC02464I blush to admit, the first time I really heard and understood the word “epiphany” was in the 1991 movie Hook:

Smee:
I’ve just had an apostrophe.

Captain Hook:
I think you mean an epiphany.

Smee:
No… lightning has just struck my brain.

Captain Hook:
Well, that must hurt.

According to Meriam dictionary,  an epiphany is a “moment in which you suddenly see or understand something in a new or very clear way.” My epiphany was kinda like that.

Let me ask you first. For those of you who write — in any form — do you have a face or person in mind for your main characters? I often need (or want) a general idea in the flesh of what my peeps look like. Not exact, of course, but a basic form from which I can expand.  Through the years I’ve used characteristics of Clark Gable (Gone With the Wind), Derek Jacobi (Hamlet), Jafar (Aladdin), Maggie Smith (Hook), Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones). I’ve changed hairstyles, eyes, and personalities. I don’t use faces whose personalities I can’t stand, or whose character I can’t stand.

This blockage can almost be a writer’s block in terms of the ebb and flow of the story. It’s not the do all/be all, but let’s just say it helps. And I’m sad when I just can’t picture my hero/heroine.

So to my epiphany.

I’ve got this novel I’ve GOT TO FINISH EDITING, and all this time I cannot find a real face to match the heroine of my time travel space odyssey. So on my drive home from work I asked my Spirit Guide(s) to give me an idea of face to go with my astral traveller. And who popped into my head but my best friend.

Now, that may seem stupid. It may seem that my friend was the basis for the character all along. If so, it was oblivious to me. But once I put two and two together, I kind of freaked. After all, she is my soulie mate. My bud. My creative and laughing counterpart.

And I’m not sure she will be thrilled.

Oh, I know, book characters are louder and brighter and meaner and crazier than real life. They need to be in order to keep one’s attention. But sometimes the parallels become distorted between the two, and the model is afraid that’s how one really sees them. One of my blogger friends based a character on her mother, and her mother loved it. Other writers have barely veiled the horrors from their childhood or failed marriages or teachers they had in school and don’t care who knows it.

My book’s heroine is a great personality, just like my friend. But she is way kookier, more impulsive, and more off base than most people I know. She is bigger than life. Her gestures, her vocabulary, are just a part of her over-exaggerated personality.

And I love her.

But is it my friend? Does it matter that my heroine is bits and pieces of a number of people I’ve known in my life?

I suppose if I made my characters pedophiles or torturers it might offend the model they’re based on (if they ever read the story). But seeing as I can’t really write agony and horror and desperation, I don’t think anyone will be offended if my characters of kids or widows or bank tellers look a little familiar.

I believe every character we create is based on someone we’ve met on our journey though life. Whether it’s in a book somewhere, a movie, or in our actual lives. And I believe this fertile base is ours for the taking.

I still feel bad that I only now realize I’ve tapped into my friend’s physique and charisma to create a brand new person. I wonder if I should tell her. Or let her read the book and figure it out for herself.

Either way, look around you. Inspiration is closer than you think.

And, after all, I doubt if a former sales director will see himself as the crazy, stressed out, flipped out  salesman that gets into poison violet candy…