Are You My Character?
Many people have asked me how I form the characters in my books. The answer is somewhat simple, everyday life is my inspiration. I pull from my family, friends, neighbors, teachers, store clerks, flight attendants, telemarketers, waiters, movie stars, fictional characters, pets; essentially everyone I've ever encountered.
When characters pop into my mind they start out as someone I know, but they quickly morph into their own being. For example, the character may have the same hair color as my friend, my cousin's accent, the flight attendant's smile, and the telemarketer's tenacity. I never let my characters mimic too much of just one person. They usually are a glorious hodgepodge, shoved into a personality blender to create a unique person that only exists in fiction.
I also draw from experiences and memorable situations. If my character receives bad news, I think of a time when my heart was broken. When my character is embarrassed, I think of the occasions where my cheeks reddened. I recall the time I first held my daughter when I think of love. I envision Thanksgiving dinner when I think of food. Every memory becomes material for a scene.
Something I have learned about my characters through real-life interactions is that people just don't fit 'the molds' we often have in mind. Men can be sensitive and woman can be strong. This isn't simply about breaking stereotypes, it's about being human. Humans have many emotions and reactions. A person may laugh at a funeral or cry at a football game. Both are possible. Someone might receive bad news during the game, causing tears. Someone may make a joke during a eulogy that can bring about laughter. Having characters react in surprising ways is part of the fun in writing and reading.
So are you a character in my story? Most certainly! Or at least part of you is. Here's looking at you, store clerk, calling me an idiot for writing down my new phone number incorrectly. And the person who told me I look better pregnant. To the girl who surprised me on my sixteenth birthday with balloons when I thought everyone had forgotten. And the man who called two synagogues to locate me and return my purse. You are all in my stories in some form or another.
The good, the bad and the funny, that is what books are made of. If you match one of my characters, remember it's probably a coincidence, as they are usually three or more people combined. You are an inspiration though, each and every one of you; an inspiration that I draw on every time my fingers touch the keys.