He Reminds Me of Someone…

Image from Depositphotos.com

This week’s prompt is one I suggested. I asked, “Have you ever based a character on a real person? Have you ever used a TV or movie character as inspiration for a character in your stories?” Fortunately, I came up with this question recently enough that I was able to remember a little of what I was thinking about.

Some of my friends create entire Inspiration Notebooks for each story they write. They comb through magazines and websites to find pictures that illustrate their stories’ settings and characters. I was tempted to try this – until I got all my scrapbooking materials out.  I realized that none of the people in my magazines matched what I had in my head. The internet has a greater selection, but it took so long to find photos that even closely resembled what I had in mind that I gave up. 

I decided to start visualizing my main characters as if they were in a play or television show. Eleven years ago, when I wrote The Partridge and the Peartree (my very first regency romance), I had a young Colin Firth in mind. I have no idea if the actor’s personality is similar to that of my character, but he’s such a good actor that I’m certain he’d be able to convincingly portray Phillip Partridge as the generous, empathetic Duke of Bartlett.

As I begin a new manuscript, I’ll often write notes to myself about the characters’ physical and personality characteristics. Sometimes my mental vision of a character will be fuzzy when I begin, but start to come into focus as the story develops. For example, a few years ago as I wrote Lost in Lavender, I knew my hero, James Benton, was a mild mannered gentleman who, as the second son of an earl, did not expect to inherit the title and was free to pursue a career. But I wanted him to have a quirk, something that would necessitate assistance from the heroine, but mild enough that it would endear him to readers. After going through a few brainstorming exercises, I decided to turn to my hero-in-residence. My husband was eternally getting turned around and lost. By giving this little quirk to James, I was able to engineer meetings between the landscape architect and the milliner, because every time he tried to go somewhere on his own, he’d end up at her shop, or at least at a place where she happened to be. 

Now that I knew that James needed help finding his way around London, I had to decide what he looked like. Hubby happened to be watching TV, tuned to Home Improvement, one of his favorite sitcoms, and there I found my modern incarnation of James Benton. The sidekick named Al Borland (played by Richard Karn), was soft-spoken yet quick-witted, kind to children, and generally a nice guy. He was a little awkward in social situations, but just enough to be endearing. Once these details were worked out, the story came together fairly quickly.

A more recent example of inspiration from real life was the heroine from my paranormal short story Monogatari Mischief. Mindy, a graduate student, was based on my college roommate. Cindy was a very focused math major who kept herself on a strict schedule, studied hard, and expected nothing but top grades for all her school work and tests. She made a nice foil for the laid back Rob, who was based on a young man my youngest daughter dated in college. 

Despite using these people and characters as inspiration, I’d like to point out my characters don’t always continue to follow the same paths. They’re not true clones, if you will. While Rob Sanders in Monogatari Mischief eventually settled down into a full-time job, the young man my daughter spent a lot of her time with is still “finding himself” even though a good fifteen years has passed since graduating from the university. As for the TV character Al Borland, he had several relationships before marrying Trudy in the series finale, while James Benton, who was based on Al, married his first love. 

Do you ever have specific people or on-screen characters in mind as you create the people in your stories?


About Patricia Kiyono

During her first career, Patricia Kiyono taught elementary music, computer classes, elementary classrooms, and junior high social studies. She now teaches music education at the university level. She lives in southwest Michigan with her husband, not far from her five children, nine grandchildren (so far), and great-granddaughters. Current interests, aside from writing, include sewing, crocheting, scrapbooking, and music. A love of travel and an interest in faraway people inspires her to create stories about different cultures. Check out her sweet historical contemporary romances at her Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Patricia-Kiyono/e/B0067PSM5C/
This entry was posted in characters, Characters based on real people, imagination, inspiration, Patricia Kiyono, TV series, Visuals, writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to He Reminds Me of Someone…

  1. Jeff Salter says:

    I think it’s cool that your late husband’s input was useful in honing those characters.
    Like you, I know authors who go to extensive lengths to plot out their stories and “visualize” their characters. If it works for those folks, good for them. But to me, it seems like a rabbit hole that would consume all my available time.
    Like you, I THINK about my characters… make some notes… etc. And, like you, I also typically give my characters something distinctive — whether it’s a verbal tic, an expression (facial), a gesture, or even some aspect of their apparel. One of my characters smelled like a goat, because he had a pet goat that went nearly everywhere with him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Oh my! It must have taken a very special lady to accept that smell.
      Frankly, my hubby wasn’t impressed that I wrote his poor sense of direction into the story. I had to remind him of a few other heroes who were great cooks like him.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Diane Burton says:

    I started using Pinterest to record settings and characters for each of my books as I wrote. When I wrote my MG/YA sci-fi adventure, young actors popped into my head. Some of them aren’t so young anymore. LOL For instance, Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit (the remake) became the inspiration for Mara, the main character. Not so much her physical appearance–though I did use her long braid–it was her determination and “grit” that embodied how I saw Mara. I don’t use actors for inspiration for my characters very often. But sometimes, one just fits.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Pinterest comes in handy for this, but it’s also easy to forget what I’m doing and spend hours looking for other things. Now that you mention it, I can see the resemblance between the True Grit character and Mara. Thanks for stopping in, Diane!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. We can pick a person all we want, but characters will change as they want!
    I don’t see how we can’t use people around us. In fact, I gave a tee-shirt to The Hound years ago which warned folks about the possibility of being put into a novel

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Elaine Cantrell says:

    I’ve never been able to find pictures of my characters either. Like you, I gave up on that idea.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s