Sorry about last Friday, folks. I was out of town and despite my increasing tablet skills, updating a blog or website from a tablet and a HotSpot remains outside my skill set, at least on a level of competence I’m comfortable with 🙂
Today’s question is one I get a good bit from time to time, especially about certain characters, and that is;
Where do your character ideas come from?
There is no one size fits all answer for that question, partly because there’s no ‘formula’ that I follow in setting up characters or story lines.
Sometimes I write a story line for a character that I’ve come up with, and other times I write a character to fit inside a story I want to tell. So many people write and tell me “You know, I have someone like Billy in my family” or “I know a guy that’s a lot like Roland” or “Parno reminds me of this character or that guy” and so forth.
To tell you the truth, that’s usually what I’m looking to do. Almost all of us know someone like Billy Todd. A person who has challenges but doesn’t allow those challenges to rule them. To box them in or define them as people, or decide how they live. Those individuals are some of the people that I have the greatest respect for. Despite the curves life has thrown at them, they refuse to just lie down but instead meet life head on.
You simply cannot fail to respect someone like that, in my opinion. So many times I see people who overcome issues like that and it makes me question myself. Could I be that strong? Could I overcome that difficulty, or deal with that situation? I know it can be done because I see people who do, but would I, personally, have that kind of strength? Would I have the determination to overcome? To keep plugging away regardless of how hopeless it might seem to others?
Like most of you I daresay, I’d like to hope that I would. And, again like most of you I suspect, I always enjoy seeing someone triumph over such difficulties. It’s uplifting, it’s motivating, it’s inspirational.
Some of my characters are sometimes based loosely on people I’ve known in real life. Not directly of course, but in toto. For instance, a character in a story I’ve created might have a trait from this person I knew, and another trait from someone else I knew, and so on down the line.
In other words, the character isn’t a direct representative of any one person I’ve known, but a combination of traits that I’ve encountered among several people over my life. A little here, a little there, and a little bit more from over ‘yonder’ so to speak. I always strive for realism, so I try to use real character traits. There is no ‘perfect’ person, so there aren’t any ‘perfect’ characters in my stories.
People make mistakes. People have character flaws. People do wrong things. People do good things. People do bad things, though perhaps for a good reason. That’s real life, and I try to make my books and stories about ‘real’ people, insofar as I strive to create characters that you, the reader, can look at and go ‘yeah, I know a guy/gal like that’. Or even ‘that’s what I would have done in that situation’.
Or in some cases you may say ‘there’s no way I’d have done that the same way’. Since real life is sometimes flawed, characters in good stories should have those flaws too, in my opinion. My goal is always to create a good story that is not only entertaining, but believable.
I mean, we’ve all read the story where the hero had been beat up repeatedly, shot three times, gone days without rest, food or water, but still manages to save the world, right? Same for the movies. But let’s be reasonable. There’s very few people who are capable of that kind of thing. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility of course, as is proven by many of the men entitled to wear the Medal of Honor. But it’s unusual. Rare.
There are some truly incredible people in the world, however. Capable of going beyond even what they themselves believed they were able to accomplish. Sometimes they are motivated by something within themselves, sometimes by outside factors such as a great leader. The thing that strikes me the most, though, is that when you speak to such people, they’re, well, people. They aren’t machines, they aren’t robots, they’re people; incredible people to be sure, but they’re real.
I always hope to ‘create’ such real people, real characters, in my writing. I don’t think I have a single character that would come close to the definition of ‘perfect’. But then I’ve never met a perfect person in real life, either.
So there’s really no absolute ‘rule’ for character creation for me. The only real litmus test for anything I do is that it needs to be ‘real’. The reader needs to be able to believe that the character could be real, and could really accomplish what he/she is doing.
Now, that doesn’t include certain genres that I sometimes dabble in, such as the fantasy or supernatural realm, but those terms themselves are indicative of the character not being real. That’s the whole point, after all. A character that’s beyond anything we are, in a story that’s beyond anything we’ll ever encounter.
And even then I strive to avoid the ‘perfect’ character tag. Even those characters that are larger than life are usually still flawed in some way, even if it’s only minor. And I think that’s important because it still allows the reader to connect with that character even though they can’t honestly identify with someone who has abilities or ‘powers’ that otherwise transcend real life.
The bottom line is, any character you create is limited by only two things; your own life experiences, and your imagination. Your life experiences help you make characters that ‘feel real’, while you imagination makes those same characters fascinating because of their individual qualities and the situations they find themselves in.
A second question today is more of a sidebar in this case, and that is; “When will we see Friggin’ Zombies?”
The answer is soon, but I don’t have an absolute date as of this writing. I know that the cover work is finished other than whatever ‘tweaking’ the artist does (and I have to say it was pretty cool. I’ll be posting the final rendering here when I get it) and the type/proofing is all but finished. So it’s possible we may see it even later this weekend on Amazon, or early next week.
When it’s ready, however, I’ll post a notice here, on Facebook, and Twitter as I always try to do.
Thanks to everyone who takes the time to send me a comment, or to ask a question. I always enjoy it, even if it does take me some time to get around to providing an answer. I always assume that you’d rather I be writing than talking, though 😛
Until next time!