A lot of advice for early writers is write what you know. Obviously we hope authors like Stephen King aren’t writing from personal experience, but I think it’s much deeper than the story that a writer connects to.
For me, there are a lot of characters I’ve written that I felt I had very little in common with the situations they were in. But every character has a little bit of me in them.
I’m not going to list all the ways I’m like my characters, but I will tell you how I came up with some of them.
Names are important to me. I’ve always been fascinated by the origin of a person’s name. Is it a family name, or that of someone important to the parents? Is it a name the person loves or hates? Does the person go by a nickname? Who chose that nickname? All those things fit into defining a character.
For me, I was named after two saints. My family is Catholic and when I was adopted, my parents named me for two saints. It has defined me in some ways, and I know the names of my characters define them.
Appearance is another big one. Most of my women are overweight women. They’re characters I can relate to because I’m not a small woman and never have been. I couldn’t find a lot of stories about women I could relate to, so I started writing them. Now it’s more popular to have characters of different sizes, but these are the women I relate to, so I’ll keep writing about them!
Little things like religion and music tastes and families are all factors I take from my personal life. I’m Catholic, like many of my characters. I listen to country music (hello Kate Maddox). I have a brother and a sister so I understand what it’s like to have both and can relate. I do struggle writing only children, but between friends and other family, I’ve gotten a good picture of what that’s like. But most of my characters are similar to me in more ways than one.
Writing people that I share no similarities with is tough. That’s not to say I’ll never write characters that aren’t like me, just that it’s more of a struggle. Opposites Attract has been more of a challenge than I expected because I’m exclusively in the head of the men. Boy, are they hard to figure out! But I’m enjoying the challenge. I’ve been to Hawaii, but it’s been a long time. So I’m doing a lot of research about the area, the language, and the culture. It’s all new to me, but I’m loving it. It’s definitely making me anxious to go back!
One day I’ll get back there, and then maybe I can write more stories about Hawaii. It’ll feel like it’s a part of me again!
What parts of you would you incorporate into a character?