Our Friday Fox asked, “Do your characters tend to have skills that you have yourself? Do you write about people who do things that you wish that you could manage?”
The answer to both questions is YES.
Almost all of my main characters share at least one skill in common with me. Several are musicians, many of them are teachers, and several enjoy sewing, cooking and writing. Since I’m familiar with these activities, it’s easy for me to write about my characters engaging in them.
On the other hand, creating characters allows me to explore skills and interests outside of my world. Every now and then, I’ll create a character with occupations that I’ve had NO experience in. That’s when I have to dig into my network of acquaintances and find someone who does whatever it is my character has to do. Last week, author Elizabeth Devlin described her meeting with a group of oceanographers. I’ve had similar conversations with an ice sculptor, a realtor, and a policeman.
As for the second question, there are many things my characters do that I wish I could manage.
- I think most authors like to give their characters the words they wish they had the presence of mind to say in certain situations. While I’m pretty good at multi-tasking and doing things, I’m not always the best at coming up with the right words to say. I often forget to express thanks, sympathy, or congratulations (maybe that’s why I make and send out so many cards!), and I never have an adequate retort when I’m put down. My characters, on the other hand, are much more eloquent, unless they’re not meant to be.
- I like to eat, which is quite evident in my appearance. Many of my characters have a lot more willpower than I do.
- As a result of their superior willpower, my characters are quite healthy and athletic, even when they’re middle aged or more. They don’t grimace and groan after going up and down stairs. They don’t insist to their grandchildren that games are played at the kitchen table due to aching knees. I haven’t yet had a character who had to run out to buy a new outfit because she had nothing that fit. Although, that would make for an interesting turn of events…
- My characters seem to be better organized than I am. They don’t seem to spend a lot of time looking for things that only a moment ago were right in front of them.
I suppose that in a way, many of the characters we create are versions of ourselves. Sometimes they reflect our personal challenges or triumphs. Sometimes they help us to deal with trauma or grief. And sometimes, they reflect the person that we aspire to be.