Character Study

One common question that I get from people I know that read my writing is whether the characters in the writing are patterned after specific people in my life. The answer is always no, not at all, but maybe a little bit. Everything that is created has a genesis that is based in reality, whether conscious or sub-conscious. Every experience that we have, such as an interaction with another person, leaves a memory and shapes our views of that person and people in general.

When I start developing a character biography, I might think that this character should have some traits from one person I know and some traits from another person but they maintain their own personality. As the character grows in my mind and on paper, and as their story develops, their personality matures and they fully become an independent person in my mind. At this point I can no longer connect the people I know that may have been the original basis for the characters. These people in the stories become so real to me that I have even had fleeting moments where I see somebody walking down the street or I hear a voice and I think, “Is that Louis?” or “That sounds like Leigh.” Then I chuckle as I remember that they are not real people.

You often hear that most fiction novels are a writer’s autobiography. This is because it is easy to write your own thoughts and ideas. It’s easy to think about how you would react in a certain situation and write that. It’s much harder to write how somebody with a completely different personality than yourself reacts to the same situation. When I’m writing a character with a vastly different personality than my own, I have to think like an actor and step into that person’s personality to try to understand why and how they react to keep true to that character.

While it’s true that Hatley Chambers’ personality is probably more like me than any of the other characters in his story, he is not completely me. Our life experiences are VASTLY different.

Glenn Seerup