Thursday, July 29, 2010

Writing Who You Know

I'm having a fantastic time with my online writing course.  This is truly the best hundred bucks I could have spent on my writing.  So far we have covered story structure, plot templates (which is a lot more inocuous than it sounds), and character development.  The assignments are short and sweet and I have been using my
WIP for all of them.  If anyone wants information on it, I will be glad to give it to you.

However, one of the things that has prompted electric shivers in my spine (or is that just a pinched nerve from sitting at the computer too long?) is the idea of "Writing who you know."

Although I understand the benefit of finding authenticity by drawing on what you observe in real life, I also have to say that none of the characters in my WIP are anything like anyone I know. They are purely fictional, and yet are so real to me that I almost expect to meet them one day. I was writing a contemporary story several years ago, set in a place we often visit, and I had the oddest feeling when I went there one day that I would see her restaurant on the street corner where I had placed it. I was actually a little upset, if you can believe it, that it wasn't there.

Because in my mind, it's there!

I really don't know where my characters come from. It's a mysterious thing, almost eerie. But they are there, in my head, nonetheless.


  1. mine are certainly real in my head, as evidenced by all the clamoring they do when i don't work on their story.

  2. oh yeah, i completely agree with you. All my characters are completely fictional.
    I mean, if i wanted my characters to be based on real people, well i could just spend time with those people instead of writing

  3. My characters are real, as well. It helps that I tend to write about or include a lot of historical figures in my work, but it feels as if I know these people and understand how they would have thought or felt.

  4. It's funny how most writers agree that their characters are real and living inside their heads. Yes, my characters are sometimes more real than my friends, who are mostly imaginary. Go figure.

  5. I don't want to sound like I'm putting down my instructor. What he was getting at is using identifying characteristics and mannerisms to make characters memorable, not transplanting real people into your story. But so far, I haven't done that. However, I'm also writing for a hobby and can take as much time as I want to mull things over and be imaginative. I think people who write for a career need more tip and tricks to give them fresh ideas.

  6. I'm so glad you are enjoying the class! My characters have bits and pieces of myself in them along with people I know.

  7. Two weeks before I was due to finish the first draft of Near Edgware, I was picking my daughter up from a party when Caleb walked out with her. She said, "Can we give T**** a lift home?"
    I squeaked inarticulately.
    She said, "I know!"
    It was a shock to see someone who looked like my fictional character leaning out the back window yelling at his mates!

  8. I think it can work both ways, depending on your story. I'm writing a womens fiction, and the draw (crosses fingers) is the characters are like real people you know.

    but for my fantasy (mostly still in my head) the characters are totally fictional. I'm taking a few guidelines from Celtic folklore, but the rest is them just showing up and introducing themselves.

    That's so awesome you're taking an online course. I took one last year, and would really like to take another. I wasn't impressed with my instructor - serious lack of interactivity on his part - but I did enjoy the environment.

    Hey, are you still posting for my Milestones blogfest tomorrow?


  9. My mom and brother and dad and family always ask me which of the characters in my story are them.

    I told my wife I used her spunkiness in one of my characters. My wife used to be a night manager at a truck stop restaurant. She's 105lbs, a cutie, and can get hot as a grease fire.

    So I put that into my character, a female nightshift fry cook at a truckstop, but changed her into a Latina (my wife's white as wonderbread) and gave her bigger boobs, because, you know, she had to have really big boobs.

    I told my mom that in my last book I changed her into a whore and killed Dad. Then I changed my brother and me into twin female hookers in Beaumont, TX and at the end killed one of us.

    I almost always have one of our dogs. We used to have a pair of black lab mutts named Whiskey and Scotch (no kidding), and I used them in my last book almost verbatim.

    My first book was about my inner drunk and the divorce I felt was looming (and happened about like I prophesied).

    Anyway, I don't write about purely fictional people. I don't write about real people, either, but I'll use some of their traits to enhance my characters.

    I always wonder what I'll say in the preface.

    This is a work of fiction. Any similarity between persons living or dead is kinda funny.

    - Eric

  10. My characters are definitely real to me - perhaps that's because some of them are partially inspired by real people. Still, it's the place - Ruby Hollow - that's most real for me. In fact, so real that I sometimes fear I'm "outing" a secret village by writing this novel.


I apologize for the word verification. I hate it, but the spammers made me do it.