Awkwardness??!!!

I hope that I am not alone when I say if I hear the lyrics to “Someone That I Used To Know” by Gotye one more time, I may actually attempt to stab my eyes out.

But with this said, I can’t help to think of this song as I develop the characters for my new novel. I have received great advice from veteran writers that suggest basing writing off of your own experiences is a good way to develop your characters, setting, and plot. So here is my question that perturbs me as we attempt to base characters off of people we know (or used to know).

When your family and friends read your novel, isn’t it most awkward when your sister says, “Hey Kim. That character Timothy in your novel. The one that is a drug addict? Did you create him based off of our cousin Phillip?” Or this one…..your boyfriend asks you, “Hey what sexual experience did you base that sex scene off of because it most definitely wasn’t with me.”

Ahhhhh, yes. Awkwardness.

So these are my fears about creating characters based off of people that you know. I am understanding that there is a fine line between using your own experiences and mingling fiction with fact. Or I also see switching and swapping personality traits among your “pool” of people that you know as a plausible option.

How do you choose and develop your characters? Do you base them from people that you know or completely fictionalize them or do a combination of both?

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6 thoughts on “Awkwardness??!!!

  1. I think it’s a balance between both. When we look around at the world through our writer eyes everything is fair game– from strangers to family. I don’t think it will feel so awkward when you make a ton of cash and pay off all their houses. Good luck in the new year– stay awkward!

  2. When you balance both, you can always tell people that real people and experiences inspire you but many things are simply made up in your imagination.

    I actually turned to studying psychology for two reasons, I felt silly borrowing money I didn’t have to go to school for writing when dedication and practice combined with so many helpful books would be just as useful. Soo…I went for a degree that I would literally need to pursue the work I’m looking to get into (counseling) with the side benefit that whatever I learned in pursuit of psychology would help me build more believable characters.

    You might actually try checking out some books on personality psychology. I find all of it an endless sources of inspiration. Often I start with a base character “look” and core trait.

    For example, Lellian originally looked like my best friend in childhood and her core trait was a fierce protectiveness over h er friends and family, just like that same friend. From there I made up an entirely different situation that fit the actual story that would still likely result in the same behaviors in the character. From there more background grew and informed how the character might act in other situations. Now, with the exception of her core, she’s become almost unrecognizable from the friend that inspired her.

    I’m just sorry I chose a horrible school and went into debt over it all for nothing, but that’s another story. I am most decidedly not sorry for choosing to study psychology in all its various branches, if for no other reason than to improve my writing. Even when I fail to translate the character on page, they all feel more real now than they did before my studies. Yeah, I still study it alongside creative writing, but now I’m saying to heck with degrees and their accompanying debt.

    The more you study how the human brain tends to work, reading studies and whatnot, the more you can pose and answer series of what-if questions to build your character with their background and story roles. If my main character grew up a middle child, what’s the most likely personality type to expect from her? If she ends up with the traits of a first born instead, what happened to cause that? Just one of many examples (showing that you can use general population results for your characters, or have fun creating new material as you explain why they are outliers or merely different to the typical results).

    You should also give Livia’s Brainy Writing Blog a try if you’re interested in this approach. Some of the best psychology to writing connection posts I’ve read are on her site.

    http://blog.liviablackburne.com/

    Also, if you’re game, I’d love to talk shop with you from time to time through IM or something as two unpublished blogging writers struggling down their paths together 🙂 I know they have writer workshops for that but…I’m just not a good match to that formula, I just prefer having a few good writing friends that are willing to chat away with some mutual brainstorming sessions for fun 😀

    • Wow, thanks so much for taking the time to send me such a great reply to my post. Your suggestion of studying personality psychology is an amazing idea I would have never thought of. It makes so much sense though and why reinvent the wheel when it’s already there for you and all you need to do is add to it.

      I know what you mean about school. I have a BA in Ele. Ed and a newly acquired MSED in Education (reading specialist). As I love teaching, I am currently out of it and into business and now into something I have always loved, writing. I almost minored in writing as an undergrad so all of my schooling has helped me to write, but I can definitely see how a degree in psych can help you build your characters. Thank you for the link as well, I will definitely check it out.

      And I would LOVE to brainstorm with you. Feel free to email me anytime. And let me know your name!!

      Thanks again for your time. I am amazed at how effective blogging is to connect with other writers and to get advice!

      • I go by Saronai online. I took an offchance and checked facebook for the name on your site, so I shot you a friend request there.

        I also use yahoo IM most frequently. I think I still have Skype too, but don’t mind using PMs on facebook either, though I hate their actual IM thing and keep it turned off.

      • Saronai,
        Yay! I friended you on fb. The easiest way to contact me is via email. Talking back and forth on fb can work too as I get both on my phone. Look forward to chatting with you!

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