How Many Of My Characters Have Traits Or Personalities Of Real People I Know
Let me take the long way around to answer that question.
Often at autographings, after I’ve thanked a reader for coming to the bookstore to meet me, shaken her hand, signed her books, given her a pen, she says, “You’re so nice!” Invariably, she sounds surprised.
And I think, What did she think I would be like?
Then I think back to the time before Facebook, before Twitter, before the internet, before I had dared to write a word, knew nothing about publishing and had never met an author, and I think … Ohhhh.
She thought I would be An Author.
An Author: Someone who has a muse, lives in some exotic foreign locale, preferably someplace windswept and romantic, travels the world signing books on glamorous book tours, has an editor weeping over her work and handsome lovers hanging on her every word (when she deigns to meet them), types her manuscripts on paper on a typewriter and — this is the cool part — writes only when she is inspired and then gets so involved in the story she forgets to eat.
And I want to tell this lovely reader (who I adore for coming to meet me) that I have NEVER IN MY LIFE forgotten to eat. But I don’t, because there’s a pretty good chance she’s going to go home, get on the internet, and find out the truth.
She might stumble upon the blog about my book tour and think, “Hey! That’s not glamorous!”
Or she might follow me on Twitter where I talk about, not the exotic restaurants in which I’m dining, but what I’m fixing for dinner.
Or she might find me on Facebook leading the charge to rename “Bodice Rippers” or quoting, not Shakespeare, but Miss Piggy. (“When you are in love with someone you want to be near him all the time, except when you are out buying things and charging them to him.” — Miss Piggy)
Or she might hit my website and read my article on writing which say nothing about muses or lovers or getting swept away in a story, but are prosaic and seem to indicate that writing is a job like any other and involves mostly putting your butt in the chair and working.
Sooner or later, she’s going to think, Christina Dodd isn’t An Author! She lives in a house in Washington state with her husband who she’s been married to since the earth’s crust cooled, has two kids and two dogs, likes to visit DisneyWorld, complains about PMS and hates to exercise. In fact, Christina Dodd is An Imposter because she sort of reminds me of … me.
Okay, so back to that Facebook question: How many of your characters have traits or personalities of “real” people you know?
If I wrote a book about A Fictional Author, it would be interesting because she would have a muse, live in an exotic locale, have handsome lovers, etc, etc. But a book about a real author? Like me? Can you imagine anything more boring? People would line up around the block not to buy it!
So … there’s the long answer to the question.
Here’s the short answer: Real normal people have moments where they’re brilliant, anguished, fascinating, tormented, humorous, aroused, glamorous, but for the most part, we’re all sort of, well, don’t take this wrong … we’re boring.
And thank God, I say, because I’ve had times in my life that were tumultuous, and you know what? It always involved unemployment or marital problems or health issues or kid problems or money problems or combinations of all of them.
The Chinese have a curse: “May you live in interesting times.” My heroes and heroines live in interesting times, and every interesting time I’ve lived through thoroughly sucked. So hugs to you who are living in interesting times. May you come through on the other end and join the those of us who (thankfully) live in the Land of Boring.
Sorry, times are tough right now and I got sort of waylaid there for a minute…
The short answer to the question How many of your characters have traits or personalities of “real” people you know? is: I write romance. I want mystique! Excitement! Adventure! Angst! In other words, no matter whether I’m writing romantic suspense, paranormal or historical, I need to sell books. So I don’t model my characters on real people.
If you want to know more about my tough times and how I lived through them to get published, please listen to my speech given to 2200 writers at the Romance Writers of America conference. It takes 45 minutes (bring popcorn) but the key phrase in the speech is, “I’m the writer who has done everything wrong once. There is no dumb thing you can do that I didn’t do first.” (To be posted soon!)