One Author's Life


Where Do Characters Come From?

April 12, 2013

"Are the characters in your novel based on real people?" I am asked this nearly every day. My late mother-in-law is the inspiration for the character, Jackie a.k.a. Miss Dreamsville, and my husband inspired the character of her son, Jude, at age 11. Everyone else is invented. Where on earth do these characters come from? I sometimes wonder myself, but I believe they come from life experience. Starting my writing career as a newspaper reporter gave me a head-start. I have a collection of peculiar encounters with people catalogued, somehow, in my mind. For example, while the character Dolores, a former stripper turned alligator poacher, sounds unlikely, I did in fact encounter several women similar to her when I was a reporter in Florida back in the '80s. Dolores, therefore, is a composite of several real persons. The twin teenaged girls in the book, who drive their mom (Miss Dreamsville) crazy with their eye-rolling, is based loosely on my sister and me. While we are not twins, we are a year apart and were sort of raised like twins, sharing a room, dressed in matching outfits, and so on. I think I was much, much snarkier than my sister, and I certainly recall being rude to my mother when I was in my early teens. (Sorry, Mom!) So that, you might say, is drawn directly from personal experience. Another example: I once had a problem with a postal worker reading my mail, especially my professional magazines, so I wrote that experience into the way that my narrator, Dora, meets Miss Dreamsville for the first time. (Dora works at the Post Office counter and is caught reading Miss Dreamsville's copy of Vogue.) Being a novelist means noticing and remembering the quirky as well as the profound, which are sometimes the same thing.