It’s no secret that writers often include their own memories, conversations and habits in their novels. I myself am very guilty of certain Lucy phrases and reactions, because it’s how I imagine I would react in a situation. Writers also inject other real life experiences into their writing, including their friends, family, and frenemies.
It’s an obvious choice, right, to use people from our everyday lives in our work? I can take the best and worst of them and use it to develop my characters into real people, into people that readers want to know/love/hate. We all know the story of JK Rowling using certain people she knew as a base for her Harry Potter characters (Gilderoy Lockhart, anyone?)
In Gifted, I definitely used a few friends as inspiration for my characters. There are so many people in this story that it was easy to write in some people I know for real.
My best example is Delia Stavros. Delia was one of the first characters I wrote after Lucy and Gabriel. She practically jumped off the page for me with her bright personality and quirks. She’s Greek and tends to get her words a little mixed up, but luckily she’s cool with Lucy correcting her. I had my reservations about the perky best friend, since that happens a lot. But because Lucy is new, I needed to have an easy way for her to get acclimated. Delia is, if you didn’t figure it out from the topic, based on my best friend Erica (aka my cover artist).
Delia is a Runner, a gifted being who, as you can guess, is really fast. Erica actually took up running and marathon training a few years ago and even though I wrote Delia and her gift before that happened, it seems appropriate, right? Erica’s a runner, she’s pretty, super friendly, and tends to see the glass half-full in almost any situation. Plus she and Delia both love cookies.
Delia is also Lucy’s saving grace, the sole reason Lucy gets as far in the Donovan Circus as she does. Without Delia, Lucy would be lost and probably a total mess. But Delia and Lucy are roommates and become fast friends and I love their friendship. Scenes with them together are fun to write, especially when Delia’s getting her words confused (or eating cookies). Fun fact: Delia’s word mix-ups were a last minute tweak that I threw in to better develop Delia into a fuller character. I’m so glad I did it, too, because Delia has turned out to be the fan favorite of the bunch, I think!
Writing characters, especially on a big scale where you have a whole world of people to invent, is tough. I have no idea how the hell George R.R. Martin does it with the Song of Fire and Ice books. I can barely keep up with the “main” characters, much less secondary characters and family histories. I think another important factor for writers to remember is that even while we can base our characters off of people we know in real life, we should make sure that no one is exactly alike. I want to make my characters unique and even though they might have similar personalities or habits, readers should read about people that DON’T exist. We have enough jerks, prom queens, evil coworkers and/or workout partners. Readers want to read about things they don’t know, people they don’t interact with everyday. Escapism is key and that means my readers should be taken into another world, with people they don’t know (yet can still relate to!).
But thank goodness I’ve got a bunch of characters in my own real life, cause I’m still stealing quirks, hobbies, and phrases for my own world-building 🙂