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Creating Characters from Real life



Writing fictional characters takes imagination and time.

There is a way to speed up this process and make your character feel real enough to touch, but you have to be brave.

It’s a time-honored tradition to make character charts and fill them in with everything from favorite food to worst childhood memory. It’s something I’ve done, but have found the method lacks the warmth of a real human.

Example:
Kara’s blue eyes sparkled as she picked her favorite ice cream, strawberry. She hoped she wouldn’t getting any of it on her classic car seat. A memory from when she was five and dropped her cone on her father’s sedan seat almost choked her.

Terrible writing!!! You can say that, as it’s meant to be terrible. But does this character have any hope of being real? Probably, but I can speed up the process if I model her after someone I know. I would never pick one person and use them only, but maybe two people that have interesting quirks would perk up this droopy Kara.


Let’s see what happens when I add one trait.

Kara held her favorite ice cream, strawberry, in her hand. Too bad she wouldn’t be able to eat it now that she’d been diagnosed as lactose intolerant. But she could smell it. She inhaled and the fruity scent tickled the back of her throat. Maybe if she took one tiny bite it wouldn’t hurt.

Her little brother waited in the car. Would he notice? Yes, probably. Worse though, if she ate it and had a reaction, explaining the condition of the driver’s seat to her father could be worse than the diarrhea attack.


Again, not the best writing but it works for this blog

Now we have a Kara with a problem, one that one of my friends has but my friend wouldn’t be angry because millions (I’m guessing on that number!) are lactose intolerant. She would relate to this character but not see herself. Sometimes, she will give in and have a bite of ice cream, and she pays for it.

We can take this further by twisting this with another trait from a different friend.

Kara held her favorite ice cream, strawberry, in her hand. Too bad she wouldn’t be able to eat it now that she’d been diagnosed as lactose intolerant. 

But she could smell it. She inhaled.The fruity smell tickled the back of her throat. Maybe if she took one tiny bite it wouldn’t hurt.

Her little brother waited in the car. Would he notice? Yes, probably. Worse though if she ate it and had a reaction right away, explaining the condition of the driver’s seat to her father would be worse than the diarrhea attack.

“Here you go, Trav. Enjoy. Someday you might not be able to eat this stuff.” She handed it to him through the open window.

She couldn’t have ice cream so she’d substitute the need for comfort with a pair of new shoes, right after she dropped her brother off at home and picked up her own wheels.




Okay, now we have a lactose intolerant shoeaholic. I wonder what she drives. It must be fast because she calls it wheels instead of a car. I’ve used two traits from different people and neither of my friends would know I’m modeling a character after them.

So when you get stuck and those character sheets aren’t helping you, look to those around you. 

Start now by making a list of interesting traits in people you see every week. 

Make sure you mix things up and you’ll never get caught. Trust me! Your friends and family are looking for themselves in your work.

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