Where do your characters come from?


So you’ve worked out your plot, got the settings sorted and created your world – what’s left? Well people, of course. The beings that will inhabit the places you’ve dreamed up. Where do they come from – pure imagination, or based on people you know or have seen on TV and film?

Flute player hands in a black backgroundJeremiah Tully

Personally I never use people I actually know, just in case they recognise themselves. I sometimes use pure imagination, but find it easier to keep in mind the face of a celebrity or film star I’ve never met.

JoeJoe Ambrose

I like to be able to picture a face, as it makes the character more realistic, leaving me free to define their backgrounds, personalities, etc. Having said that, if for instance I want to make a character bad-tempered, I may imagine how a friend or acquaintance who has this characteristic, may respond to the situation I have my character in. This helps with facial expressions, body language and dialogue.

helenHelen Greycheck

I also make notes of the characteristics I endow each character with, as this aids continuity. In the past, I’d do this by the seat of my pants and this resulted in a character swinging from mood to mood so wildly, they were practically schizophrenic!

darkZeb Tully

In a way, creating characters is akin to creating a wonderful statue. Whereas the statue’s face and form emerges from a piece of marble or wood, a character is formed within the writer’s mind, to emerge a fully fledged person, ready to step forth and face whatever their creator throws at them.


So whether a character is plucked from thin air, or based on someone else, it pays to take the time and care necessary to make them as three-dimensional as possible for the reader.




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3 Responses to “Where do your characters come from?”

  1. As I edit my books, I’m somewhat shocked by the parallels I find between the characters I’ve created and people I actually know. It tends to happen most with minor characters, where I’m not actively “creating” the persona so much as filling it in. I’ve had to go back and make a few changes lest people think I’m writing my memoirs.


  2. To be honest, my characters, no matter how fantastical they may be (dragons included), nearly always come from people I know, either in part or in whole. It can physical characteristics, mannerisms, speech patterns, or elements of their personality, but looking back at all the characters I have written, every one can be ascribed to someone I have met/know. 😀 Oh dear…perhaps I shouldn’t be admitting that! But I think for me, it helps to ground that character in reality, to have a real point of reference from which to work, even if it’s only a minor characteristic they share with that real person.


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