Characters I Have Known

by | Mar 21, 2023 | Writer's Life, Writing Tips

At book signings and personal appearances, I’m often asked about the characters in my writing – Where do they come from? How do I view and develop them? Are my characters images of me and my friends?

I’ve recognized two categories of main characters. Either they carry the story forward or their evolution is the story. Other characters – we’ll call them supporting characters – are present to add credibility and realism to the events.

As I write, I keep a profile on each of my characters. In a separate file on the computer, I have a complete description of each of them. As they morph with the changes in the plot, I compare their reactions and comments with the profile to be sure that they remain true to themselves.

No, I’m not avoiding the big question – are all of my characters biographical? Yes! Most of my main characters have aspects of my personality and/or experience. I don’t have to imagine a reaction if I have actually lived through a given experience.

Other characters have traits that I recognize in people around me – be they friends or adversaries. If I need a certain characteristic, I can draw on my knowledge of others and their probable actions or reactions.

Regardless, I have to see the plot developing as a movie in my head. The next scene depends on the way my players (characters) would handle the situation – not what is on a script. So, my characters take an active part in the writing process.

I’ve found that if I’m true to the characters, they are true to my story. If you are a friend of an author, watch for yourself in their published works. Sure, the name will be different – sometimes cleverly disguised – but the traits and speech patterns may reveal your starring role.

If that’s the case and you recognize yourself, enjoy your fame as it was probably meant as a compliment.

Joe Scavetti
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Jim Martin
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