So, rather than dwell on my utter failure at NaNoWriMo (does it mean I failed if I never technically started?) I thought I would pose a question. How do you come up with the characters that drive your stories? Do you pull them out of thin air? Watch hours of reality TV and use one of those interesting individuals to inspire you (try Wife Swap, you’ll have more material than you know what to do with)? Do you remember an existing character from another novel and tweek it enough to be your own? Or do you do what I often do and base many of the characters in your story on the most memorable people you’ve encountered in your own life?
I often wonder if by doing this I’m taking the risk of a friend, family member or acquaintance recognizing themselves in my story. When I become a successful writer (a la Stephanie Myers), make a gagillion dollars, and have ten times that in followers, I have to assume that one of my family members or friends will actually pick up one of my novels and give it a whirl. Will they see themselves in the protagonist? Maybe. Will they be flattered or offended? I guess it depends on the story and ‘spin’ I’ve put on the character (that is obviously an edited version of themselves) as to how they feel about it. If Aunt Jane clearly picks out the oversized, angry, chain-smoking lesbian who has an MBA but late-in-life discovered her love of animals and now spends 40 hours a week cleaning cages at the city zoo as herself (seriously, that could be anyone) then what am I going to say when she corners me at Thanksgiving?
I say that anyone who’s memorable enough to have found their way into an author’s creative neurons and stuck there long enough to make it onto the pages of a book should feel honored, flattered, praised, complimented (you gotta love thesaurus.com) to find themselves in that story. If that person had any idea how much time, attention, love, devotion, sweat and tears went into that story then they would understand that it’s a good thing no matter how they come across (good luck explaining that to Aunt Jane, but it’s the truth).
So, I ask you, do you intentionally omit those you love (or just know) from your writing so as to avoid an embarrassing, hurtful or offensive situation in the future?
Congrats to those writers who successfully completed NaNoWriMo! Good job!
Keep on writing!