Character building for fiction writers
Are your characters based on real people?
I'm not sure whether to answer this question by saying "No, absolutely not!" or "Maybe, a little."
My creative process starts with my characters. A sculptor might start with a block of clay, and gradually begin molding and shaping character movement and personality, I do the same with my characters.
They each have their own quirks and personalities and I'll often use pets, cars, or clothing to make them more real. My goal is to build three-dimensional characters that readers will miss when they put down the book. Two authors regularly create characters that perfectly embody this skill: Candace Calvert and Louise Penny. I met Candy years ago when we both had written almost nothing. Wandering in the dark to learn our craft, we both stumbled into an online class. Over time, one of Candy's characters captured my imagination and the two of us frequently talk about her as if she's real (She recently gave up smoking.) Louise Penny's characters in Three Pines are lovable and strange and loving, and I miss them dearly between books.
Sometimes I use pieces of my friends' names for my characters. Usually, it's a place holder name while I try to learn enough about the story person to discover the name that is a perfect fit. But sometimes the borrowed names fit so well that the characters decided to keep them. But no one should ever worry that I will write them into my book as a villian or a bad guy. Sadly, though my friends are smart, quirky, and fun, real people are surprisingly dull.
Real people aren't colorful enough or malleable or dynamic enough to make the grade when it comes to fiction. And real people are private and protective of their true inner nature. I need to know my characters better than I know my own family and friends. And the bad guys are necessarily more evil than anyone I've ever met.
So are my characters real? No. Never. My hope, however, is that I'll draw Maggie and her friends so well that when you meet them in Orchard View you'll forget that they're imaginary and they'll become your friends, too.
— Mary Feliz