Sunday, June 3, 2012

June Bugging

I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June. -- I.M. Montgomery

As writers, we invoke the characteristics of people we've known to give life to those we create. I have done this, and the people in my life never recognize themselves in my fiction. Funny, huh? Proof that we rarely view ourselves as others view us.

Inventing characters is one of the best parts of writing fiction. To dream up a cast of characters who will fit perfectly into a plot, who will drive it forward, and who will, hopefully, even live beyond it in the memories of readers -- that's the fun stuff of fiction.

I have placed a main character in a book before, and after a few chapters, fired her and dreamed up somebody else because the story wasn't working. The character wasn't saying what needed to be said and wasn't feeling what needed to be felt. I had to rethink, recreate, and recast for the betterment of the novel.

Sometimes the characters do things that are surprising and that have an impact on readers I hadn't anticipated. In "Cheyenne's Shadow," currently available on Amazon and for Amazon Kindle readers, the hero, Johnny Cheyenne, reads one of the heroine's favorite books. He marks his favorite passages with wildflowers, pressing them between the pages. When the heroine discovers them and reads the romantic passages, she falls more deeply in love with him.

Evidently, from the fan mail I have received about that book, the same thing happened for my readers! Almost every message and nearly every book reviewer mentioned this plot development, many of them confessing that it brought tears to their eyes.

I must confess, I never expected that reaction! I liked the scene and, naturally, I loved Johnny Cheyenne, but there were a couple of other scenes that I thought were stronger and more emotionally telling.

But what do I know? Just as we are often unable to see ourselves as others see us, we also can't always predict what novels or scenes in novels will strike deep chords within our readers. If we could, we would all be on the bestseller lists!

What I am grateful for is that readers find favorite scenes in my books and tell me about them. Apart from the fun of creating characters, having readers tell you why they loved those characters ranks way up there on the fun meter.

What friends or relatives have you borrowed from to create characters? Did you tell them? Did they recognize themselves? Were they bugged by it or flattered?

I would love to hear from you!



  1. Peggy makes a multi-dimensional character, her angelic face, her devil's own vocabulary.

    Like you, Deborah, I draw from friends and family in developing characters. At a high school reunion, a once-naughty girl and I sat reminiscing. She had read my current book and "loved that bad girl." Tempted, I didn't tell her. No wonder she loved that character, it was her when she was 17.

    1. Oh, Sharon, that is rich! Isn't it funny how people don't recognize themselves? I was afraid at first to closely pattern a character after a real person and was relieved when the aunt I used in a book never recognized herself. Not that it was unflattering, but you never know what will offend people.
      The "bad girl" from school might have even admired the one in your novel, although she wouldn't want to admit it! The bad girl still left in her might have risen up with glee when she met that character in your book!
      Peggy is always a good character because she IS a character!
      Thanks for the comment. Made me think . . .