Most people are drawn to writing because they want to create the story they want to read. Recognition, as in, “I recognize me” can be frightening. You might use someone you know as a character in your book and now you fear he/she will recognize themselves. Will they be angry, offended, or even upset? This character in your book isn’t really them – just based on their characteristics, yet will they be okay with that?
Often times we use the personalities of people we know as characters in our books ––without being consciously aware of it. We are writing about feelings and it’s our experiences that drive our characters actions and reactions in our book. This might come across disloyal to the people we love. Our characters are often developed on our own upbringing, and we start to fear that we will be “recognized” in a personal or even frightening way.
But where else should we draw the personalities of the characters we are writing? We draw from experience and those around us. I would never make a character one-hundred percent a person I know, but I do draw on personality quirks and traits. I do draw on strong (good and bad) personality habits or language. I remember way back when I started writing I was told my heroine always had to have a ‘tag’ like Scarlet O’Hara did the ‘fiddle de de’ expression. I’m so glad we are past that particular ‘must’ … but do find twitches, or mannerisms, or even language habits to help the reader recognize or have expectations for your characters.
One thing I am cognizant of these days . . . our readers might want strong heroes and heroines, but they do not want them to be perfect. They no longer want the ‘petite little woman’ or the ‘fainting damsel’ – although I do concur there is a time when collapsing from exhaustion or stopping to catch one’s breath because of excessive running is not a weakness, but a physical necessity.
My rule is to put myself into the character’s situation or position. Imagine myself in the role and decide is it plausible, realistic, and necessary. Never have a character do anything for sensation sake, for extra drama or gore . . . I truly believe todays reader is sophisticated and education . . . he/she will see right through this and you’ll lose the credibility of the story.
When creating the characters of your book, be true to whom you want her/him to be. Draw on the people you know and ‘borrow’ those traits. If your reader recognizes herself/himself . . . you don’t have to admit it’s them, and if they don’t like what is written – I always think – hmmm, maybe they should evaluate themselves and change – if they don’t like what they read.
The first time I knew my mother-in-law was reading my love scenes, it was a bit uncomfortable. But, she said she loved the book – and never brought up those ‘special scenes.’ I figured if she could read them – heck so could my family and friends. J It took a bit to accept people were reading my love scenes; but as a dear friend jokingly said, when I told her the next book was a bit ‘steamy’ she said, “Oh, I live for those scenes – where else do I get them?” We had a good chuckle over that!
The bottom line - don’t take it all so seriously. Write the character that fit your story, draw from the people around you and make them your own. Don’t worry if someone is going to recognize it’s them, and if they do … maybe they should be flattered. Hopefully they’re your ‘heroine’ and not the ‘villain!’