Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Blonde or Brunette?

How do you choose the physical attributes of the characters in your stories? If you knew a gorgeous guy named Gordon in high school or college, do you find all your heroes tend to have the same dark, wavy hair as Gordon? Could your fictitious Gordon’s name be a derivative of his – Gord, Gordon or Don for a first name, or maybe Gordo, Gordin, Gerdon or something similar for a surname?

Did your favorite teacher stand only five-six, so your hero is a compact man? Or does he have the long, lean build of the track captain you had the big crush on?

Was the librarian a tall, willowy blonde woman of statuesque proportions and you see her in every heroine? Just because she saved books for you by the authors you liked best? Maybe you had a thing for your next door neighbor and every heroine has the same green eyes as hers.

Then there are the villains of the pieces. The bully who tormented the other kids could lend some of his or her characteristics to your novel's bad guy or gal, as can the perpetually grouchy clerk at the video store. Not that they’re villains in real life, any more than the tall librarian from your childhood could necessarily face down mobsters or murderers! But it’s easy to draw a trait from an individual we know who we really like--or don’t--to help create a person in our story. That doesn’t mean he or she “is” your heroine or your villain, of course.

But many authors will not give a fictional character the same name as someone they know, simply because it’s too hard for your story’s “Laura” not to become the organized multi-tasker your college roommate was! Of course, there are authors who include friends, thinly veiled, in the cast of characters in a book and acknowledge them in their notes! That’s okay if they’re part of the chorus, so to speak, and not one of the main movers and shakers.

So, how do you create your villains and heroines?

Libby McKinmer
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Morgan Mandel said...

I use bits and pieces from real people, but they're more than that. In my mind, my book poeple are individuals in their own right, with names and physical characteristics which match their personalities.

Morgan Mandel

Mark Troy said...

I try to make my characters as different as possible from the people I know. If a real person comes to mind as a model for a character, I'll try to turn everything around--male becomes female, young becomes old, tall becomes short, etc. I get a lot of new ideas that way.

Dana Fredsti said...

I like to play Victoria Frankenstein with my characters and people I know in real life... then, when I"m finished, I stand over the manuscript and yell, "It's Alive...IT'S ALIVE!!!" while lightning cracks in the background.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

As far as personality, I select from one of the four basic - sanguine, melancholy, phlegmatic, and choleric - and build from that point.

For looks, I get a real vague idea of what that character looks like and then I find someone famous who fits the bill. In my upcoming book, Lori's appearance was based on Anna Kornikova and Jason's on Christian Bale. (And I confess, I think he's really hot!)

L. Diane Wolfe

F. M. Meredith, author said...

In my mind, I see my characters as distinct people. Some ideas I do get from people I've known, but they've never recognized themselves. A good thing.

As for names, I collect names by keeping graduation programs and things like that, then seeking a name that really fits.