HOW DO YOU CREATE YOUR CHARACTERS? This is one of the questions I get asked most often at book fairs and live events. Do you use people you know and just give them different names? Neighbors? Family? Ex-lovers?
All authors are different, but for me, the short answer is no. Creating unique and memorable characters is what I love to do, so none of my characters are based on real people—including me! Real people come with their own history, physical , mental, social, and emotional characteristics. What would be the fun in that? Nothing left for me to do. That said, sometimes a glimpse of an interesting stranger sparks my imagination. Take Iona, for example.
Iona Slatterly, she of the neon lipstick and lacquered French twist, was inspired by a tiny woman I saw from across the room while serving jury duty years ago. Iona isn’t hard to spot. I never got to talk with the woman in person, but her image and the way she carried herself stayed with me. Years later, when I started writing SHATTERED, she just naturally found her way into the story.
And Iona makes quite an impression. In Shattered: Logan McKenna Mystery Book 1, she has been head of security at the Otter Festival where Logan and her brother had summer jobs as kids. In this scene, Logan is back at the festival and sees Iona for the first time in over 15 years. The tiny spitfire hasn’t changed!
‘Stuffed into tiny, pink jeans, Iona perched on her tall stool next to a rickety folding table covered with parking stickers and badges, managing a growing line. Iona had been a fixture at the festival as far back as anyone could remember. Where did one find pink jeans anyway? Probably the girls’ department at Sears.
Topping the jeans was a crisp, sleeveless white blouse with western piping, tucked in and cinched with a white, rhinestone-studded belt. The woman couldn’t weigh as much as some of her 7th graders, Logan thought.
Bleach-blonde hair, ratted into an immobile French twist with two perfect ringlets on each side, was sprayed to withstand any and all of Iona’s activities, which, if rumors were correct, were prodigious.
A solid roll of bangs sat atop starkly penciled brows. Today’s lipstick was ‘Neon Geranium’. Number two pencil tucked behind her ear, Iona’s compact body was concentrating on the list she was checking off on her clipboard. A Marlboro Light burned on the edge of a Pepsi can near her left hand.”
Since many of my readers are also writers, I am working on another blog post that gives you the nuts and bolts of how to create main and quirky side characters for your novel. There really are some basics that will help.
In the meantime, enjoy Iona! I am sure she will find her way into future installments of the Logan series!