“How do you come up with your characters?”
I get asked this question about as often as “Where do you get your ideas for books?”
Short answer: everywhere!
But let me break it down by using five examples of characters I’ve written.
In the late ’90s I became a fan of “Xena: Warrior Princess” (specifically the alternative fan fiction on the internet.) “Uber” fiction was just getting started (using Xena and Gabrielle in different time periods,) and I happened to stumble across a Xena/Highlander crossover.
I was. Blown. Away!
After exhausting all avenues for that storyline, I decided to write my own. That’s why I began writing — I wanted to read more stories involving the Highlander style immortals with a Xena spin.
The original concept was so awesome that other fan fiction writers wanted to have the same amount of fun. Their enthusiasm resulted in the Infinity series.
This character came to me in a dream after I’d watched the movie “Queen of the Damned.” The unusual thing was that I’d dreamed of a supporting character, not the main character!
Read The Strange Path, Book 1 of the Sanguire. In the scene where Daniel and Cora are driving Whiskey to a safe place, she sees Valmont for the first time.
Valmont’s actions, the speed with which he moves, his sardonic expression and the sparkle of humor in his cinnamon brown eyes..the description of that scene is exactly what happened in my dream. Valmont was born long before Whiskey ever saw the light of day.
Back in the dark ages, just after writing the Infinity series, I was listening to Sevendust’s first album. One of the songs is, bluntly put, about a rape with some BDSM references.
I had to ask myself, what kind of person would write this song? After a few days pondering that question, I followed it up with, “What kind of WOMAN would write this song?”
Well, that fired up the imagination! Thus lead guitarist Torrin Chizu Smith of Warlord Metal was born, an abused soul who did some reprehensible things to survive.
I’ve played RPGs most of my adult life. D&D, Cyberpunk 2000, Traveller. Even when I don’t play, I keep a collection of books on hand. They’re a fantastic resource for writing fight scenes or managing multiple characters and locations.
After I began writing, I was invited to an email-based Star Trek RPG by a friend. People created characters and collaborated on story lines and plots. This was a far different experience than I’d had with traditional RPGs.
I created a security officer with a heavy Nordic background. Blonde hair, blue eyes and a stoic nature until you get to know her. She eventually worked her way up the ranks and became second-in-command of the ship over the years.
That game fell to the wayside, but my characters are still with me. I reprised my security officer–complete with irascible temper for a book.
You might recognize Els Ulfarsdottir from Freya’s Tears.
On The Street
My final inspiration came to me long before I even started writing! I had the day off of work and was called in at the last minute. As I strolled in to work, I came across two women who struck me as intriguing.
The first was tall, in her early twenties, with short and wavy strawberry blonde hair. The second I saw not more than a block later, a much shorter business woman with dark hair that was prematurely graying.
To this day I’m not certain why these two lodged in my head. At the time I was still struggling to be an artist, not a writer. They both seemed to have personality to spare though I’d only seen each of them for brief seconds before we went our separate ways.
It was at least ten years later when I was searching for main characters of my next novel. I recalled these women and knew I’d found Scotch Fuller and Lainey Hughes of Broken Trails.
Have you been inspired by something you’ve heard/seen/felt? Do tell! Is there something I haven’t listed here to which writers should pay more attention? Any inspiring comments? Click below and join the conversation!