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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Books Imitate Life: Inspiration for Characters

On Select Wednesdays, I post tips and strategies for writers. 

BOOKS IMITATE LIFE: INSPIRATION FOR CHARACTERS
by J. Rose Allister

Careful, or you'll wind up in my next novel.
You've probably seen a variation of this joke on memes, t-shirts, or coffee mugs. While it may bring a smile to the lips, it might also prompt the question, "But is it true?"
It kind of is.
This confession may conjure images of writers killing characters remarkably similar to the guy who stole their parking spot. Or the nosy neighbor who reported them to the HOA for not trimming the lawn. OR the mailman who always dents the box marked "Fragile." Some may take deliberate delight in cranking out untimely ends for Specific Individuals. For the rest, it's a bit more complicated.

I've had people who, upon learning I'm a writer, ask me to make them a character. To  that I smile. I don't take Jane Smith and toss her whole-hog into a personalized adventure. But Jane's line of work, the way her mouth quirks when she smiles, or her habit of standing outside at precisely five a.m. to await the morning newspaper might be fodder. The first romance hero I wrote, Trenton Dane, is an amalgam of several men. I mashed traits together to give him the  right blend of down-to-earth vs dashing movie star. Other times, the influence of real life on my fiction is accidental. It doesn't become clear until later on.
This isn't to say that all I'm after are fun little nuances. Villains in romance may not meet an untimely end, but it's still satisfying to give them a comeuppance. In my current work in progress, the antagonist is a cheating ex-fiance who's out for revenge. Who wouldn't want to dish out a dose of hard consequences? And in a past werewolf series I wrote, one of the recurring antagonists is a grizzled former colonel type.  My son was injured during a tour with the military not long before this character was created. Though I had no clue at the time, I realized later just what demons I was exorcising when I wrote that guy. (You can imagine that things didn't go well for him by the end.)
So Yes, Virginia, you could wind up in my next book. Parts of you. Hopefully that doesn't sound like a horror novel in the making.


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J. Rose Allister is the author of more than thirty books, primarily romance and erotic romance. A former editor and submissions director, she now works as a mild-mannered hospital secretary by day, naughty writer by night.

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