INSPIRATION FOR CHARACTERS
I’ve talked before about developing characters and such. I was just thinking of where I come up with some of the people (and semi-people) that populate not only Meleena’s Adventures, but all of my stories. This article is a little bit about that process.
The most common place I dig up characters is out of thin air. Yeah, that’s right. Many of my characters aren’t inspired directly by anyone. They just pop into my head. What does that mean?
Through life, we all meet people, see them on TV, read about them and are subtly, subconsciously influenced by thousands. When these characters, if you’re so inclined to think of them that way, pop into your head, they’re likely an amalgam of people you’ve met, seen or heard somewhere, sometime. They’re usually a random mix.
How many of you created a character based on your mother, father, or another close relative? How about an uncle or aunt? Do they have any idea? Is that character simply a representation in your mind that has nothing to do with reality? Will that be something you dare not reveal to them?
Probably a more heavily used source than family would be friends. You can take more liberties with them without revealing details a family member would know that could come back to haunt you. As for a friend, you could play dumb, but a family member is more likely to know when you’ve revealed something intimate, which you shouldn’t do in the first place!
Usually, when your character is modeled after a famous person, it’s a caricature, since you don’t actually know the person. You base that character on what you think that celebrity might be like, or what your favorite persona of them is like. If you make it too flagrant, readers will catch on and call you on it.
This is where you create your characters from type characters, more or less stock characters found in every other story. The typical hard-boiled detective. The Dwarf with the Scottish accent. The spinster detective always getting herself in a pickle.
There’s nothing wrong with using these stock characters, but be aware to make then uniquely their own before everyone starts screaming “Stereotype!”
Regardless of where you derive your inspiration, you must not only avoid embarrassing a real person, or copying someone else’s character, but you must also avoid stereotypes.
A good example is when I alluded to the Dwarf with the Scottish accent a moment ago. Just because Meleena’s Adventures is a fantasy and I have Elves and Dwarves as characters, that doesn’t mean my story is in any way inspired by Lord of the Rings! As I stated in another recent article, I never liked the books. Though I loved the movies, my story is inspired by D&D, so it’s at least twice-removed from LOR. The last thing I wanted was a Dwarf with that Scottish accent! In fact, he has no accent at all. As for the Elves, there are several races and sure, they’re Elves, just like the Dwarves are Dwarves. So what? I have many other characters in the story that have nothing to do with D&D or LOR. Get over it!
For you, the same holds true. You can use any characters you want to fit your world, whether real or fantasy. The only qualification is to make them your own, not someone real, not someone copywrited. Those inspirations should always be just a starting point, not the definition.