Monday, July 13, 2015

Meeting Interesting Characters in Real Life by Cheryl Harper

Dreaming up characters is a lot of fun. I've never based anyone in my fiction on a real-life acquaintance. My characters so far have been composites of pieces and parts from all kinds of places, but last week, I actually met a man who must be in a book someday. If you are a polite person and have a job which requires frequent interaction with the public, you've met this guy, too--the comedian on the hunt for an audience. In between political commentary (no fan of the president), a string of original material involving found objects he picked up off the desk which I have permission to use someday, and jokes like this chicken one, I  lost track of how long his show lasted.

I got my money's worth.

While he talked, I thought to myself, "This guy's definitely going in a book." If you're a writer, how often to meet someone and think "I know just the story for you"?

And as an aside, I'm finding odd inspiration in that chicken joke. I've done a few things this year just to prove I'm not chicken (although I am...BIG CHICKEN HERE). It's another funny coincidence how people come along and say the words I need to hear, friends who send encouraging words at just the right time. If you need a shot of confidence today (because I definitely do), I say go for it. Cross the road. Give it a shot. Sit down to write the characters in your head. Hit SEND! And don't stop in the middle, whatever you do! (Note: this last part is mainly directed at me. The dreaded middle is so dreadful, is it not?)



19 comments:

  1. I'm 'looking forward to meeting this guy in a book. I frequently use people I've met as characters. Recently, I was on a plane with several beautiful young girls who were on their way to Las Vegas. One of them was telling a hilarious story about something that happened to her on a previous trip and I thought, 'Yup, definitely going in a book."

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    1. Oh, he's going in! I just have to find the perfect spot! :)

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  2. I sometimes use people I've met but don't know. I try never to use anyone who may read one of my books who knows me back. But it's funny how many people from my past think they see themselves in my stories. The good thing is they all see themselves as the heroes or heroines and never the odd-ball people who populate a story.
    Good luck on the middle. They are always tough.

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  3. I’ve often met someone who intrigued me, and I’ve thought, “This character is going in a book.” However, they’re usually unsavory, not something I can include in a Heartwarming. Thanks for the encouragement.

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    1. Ooh, unsavory, now that is a good character!

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  4. Funny story, Cheryl. People like that do brighten a day - and the chicken joke is great, I'm glad he was book-worthy and not just obnoxious. I use people from my life or those I encounter by chance all the time. When I use Astoria as a setting, I often use real people (with permission) making sure their heroic, of course, and not villainous. I'm sure we're all agreed that middles are horrid.

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    1. they're heroic - sorry about that!

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    2. Most of the time, I'm happy to have someone to talk to, but every now and then a character pulls up and stays awhile!

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  5. Love it, Cheryl! I don't often use real people as models for characters in my books--but, I did have the heroine's grandmother in one story and my mother-in-law thought it was her right away, perhaps more because I did use her apartment as the setting. She was thrilled, thank goodness. My own mother once decided she was another heroine's mother in a book, though she was not. I had some explaining to do on that one! :) Keep crossing that road. I'm a chicken too.

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    1. My sister-in-law told me she wants me to use her name. I'm not sure what she'd think if I actually wrote her into a book. Chickens are awesome, Leigh! from one chicken to another.

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  6. The few times I've used real people, they've turned into villains . I tend to use things people say rather than real people...that could be because I don't really know that many, LOL. Love the chicken joke . Happy writing!

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  7. I'm like Anna--I tend to use what they say too rather than the person. Great post and the chicken joke if priceless.

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  8. I often wondered if authors use people they know as characters in their books. All of the comments answered that question. I think I would be tempted to use people I know, but I'd have to use certain aspects of their personality and then throw something totally out of character for them in too so they wouldn't suspect it's them. The chicken joke was comical.

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    1. I wondered, too! Would you like to be a character in a book? I'm not sure whether I want to be a fictional character or not.

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  9. I've incorporated some minor events and actions--fictionalized, of course--into my stories. One instance that comes to mind, in keeping with what Anna wrote, was a deed done by a villain. The real-life situation I based it on struck me as so horrific that if I put it into a book, readers would expect it to be fiction, not something someone would do in real life.

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