Monday, May 31, 2010

Which Character is Who?

It's becoming apparent that lots of great questions get fired at authors, most of them pretty much the same ones. I like it when people ask these questions; it shows interest in my work. It's fun to answer them because each time is a little different, and I see the work in a different light. Besides, I'm a teacher; I love to answer questions. I do it all day long.

However there are three questions that catch me short every time, and they are related to each other.
1. Am I in your book?
2. Is that character __________? (insert name of a friend or acquaintance)
3. Will you put me in your next book?

Sorry to say, at least for this just doesn't work that way. Nobody in my last book, or in the book I'm currently writing, is specifically someone I know. I couldn't do that. If I did, my character would have to behave against my wishes and plans for him/her.

I love building a character, her/his biography, foibles, desires, physical appearance, idiosyncrasies, etc. I'm sure I draw all this information from those around me, but it's fairly unconscious and non-specific.

Granted, I will ask my wise girlfriend to explain my why a particular character would respond a particular way. My partner is an experienced psychotherapist who studies human motivation all the time. She will sometimes give me a childhood sketch for someone who could turn out like I want one of my characters to turn out. That helps to create a coherent biography and make a character's behavior logical.

But I never use specifically anyone I know to create a complete character. And probably, if writers did such things, there would be lots of nasty lawsuits to contend with. I remember when Rita Mae Brown wrote that tennis novel ostensibly as an indictment against Martina Navratilova and the world of pro tennis. As I remember, there was kind of a flap about that. Who needs it?

So, folks, you don't know my characters and they don't know you. Hopefully, that's not too disappointing. But really, it should be freeing. Now you can read my book without wondering where you are in there. Just enjoy the read.

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