WHO IS YOUR CHARACTER CHANNELLING?
Confession time. I once wrote a whole novel just so I could kill a character. She was based on a woman who had stolen my boyfriend. It was cathartic, and fun (oh, so much fun). I was young and inexperienced and didn’t realize you could get into Serious Trouble doing that. Fortunately, it was a lousy novel and never saw the light of day. :-)
Since then, I’ve learned discretion. Now, I borrow traits from people I know, not the entire person. People I don’t know, too. That woman with the oversized black sweater and the skinny legs? Looks like a raven when she walks? Great look for the mother of my main character. The boss who does that weird clicking thing with his tongue when he’s concentrating? Would fit perfectly on my teenage character.
It’s seductive, really. I keep a notebook to jot down the quirks I spot. Sometimes a total stranger will inspire a whole new character thanks to an odd habit. I once had a neighbor who would always wait a beat too long before answering a question. It was disconcerting. Off-putting. But boy, it made a great character trait for a police interrogator.
Nowadays, I rarely remember the origins of my characters. My subconscious does all the heavy lifting and my “people” only emerge when they’re ready. For instance, I’m not really sure where Kate Williams, the chief of police in my latest mystery release, The Tuxedoed Man (the follow up to The Shoeless Kid), came from. She’s tough and rational, but is riddled with insecurities and is a soft touch for the vulnerable ones.
I catch a glimpse of my aunt in the way Kate always wants her hair out of the way; of a man I once worked with in her impatience for people who waste her time; and of my sister in the way she raises an eyebrow oh-so-sardonically.
Who knows who else is hiding in Kate? Me, maybe? Do you have origin stories for your characters?
GIVEAWAY: In honour of The Shoeless Kid becoming available as a pocket book from World Wide Mysteries, I will give away a copy to one person who comments on this blog today. I'll post the name of the winner here tomorrow.
Web Facebook Twitter