The Second Question Writers Get Asked Most Often
“Where do you get your ideas?” may be the most frequently asked question writers get asked, while the follow-up is often, “Do you base your characters on anyone you know?”
When I get asked that, I have to say the answer is both “no” and “yes.” No, I’ve never created a character that’s a straight-up double of someone from my life. But yes, aspects of folks who either inspire me or drive me crazy have a way of seeping into my fiction. In my forthcoming novel, Leisha’s Song, for example, Leisha’s love interest Cody has a totally different background from my husband’s and is pursuing a very different art form. While my spouse is an ex-dancer/choreographer, Cody is a cellist. But there’s no question that Cody’s humor, charm, and unwavering commitment to Leisha are inspired by the guy I’m married to.
On the other hand, the antagonist in my current W-I-P, Deadly Setup, ranks right up there with the world’s worst mothers. Her narcissism, self-absorption, and total lack of empathy for her daughter are striking. She certainly wasn’t modeled after anyone in my family tree which has lots of nurturing moms. Nor was she inspired by my handful of dear friends.
So where did she come from? True confession—I have pretty solid listening skills, and I’m genuinely interested in other people. This is an asset as a fiction writer, but it also means I’ve ended up as a magnet for folks who prefer talking rather than listening and consider themselves experts on… well, everything. I can have long conversations with them in which I’ve hardly said a thing! And if I happen to be having a hard time? Well, let’s just say I need to look elsewhere for an empathetic ear.
I’m no good at telling folks to bug off who are driving me wild. My fictional characters are much braver and more assertive than I am. Which is probably why my irritating antagonists usually get their comeuppance.
Ah—the joys of writing fiction!
Thanks for some good insights, Lynn. I find the writer’s process fascinating, and I like the idea of composites of people — creating someone new while also familiar.