Always be on the lookout for characters for your writing

Life will give you a lot of material for your writing. They say that you should write what you know about, and there is nothing that you know better than your own life. This doesn’t mean that your first novel has to be an autobiography, but it does mean that you can lean on your experiences for your writing.

There is nothing that will give you writing inspiration more than the people you meet. Everyone had their own little quirks and peculiarities that make then stand out from everyone else you know. You can use these in your writing. Scratch that — you MUST use these in your writing. The fact that you meet many people during the course of your life means that you have experienced a vast range of people. In order for your next story to have compelling characters, borrowing the traits of the people you have met throughout your life. You don’t have to use them whole — you can take parts of people and merge them with parts of others to form complete characters.

For people to engage with your writing, there had to be an air of believability in what you produce. Even in the magical worlds of Rowling’s Hogwarts or Tolkein’s Middle-earth there are human characteristics and believable characters at their core. Without this, the books do not feel as readable. The characters help people to connect with the story.

To make the most of the characters in your writing I suggest that you do the following things -

  • Think back to the people you have met in the past. Think about the more unusual ones and how you can weave some of their characteristics into your story.
  • Get out there and meet people. the only way to have fresh characters is to meet as many new people as possible. Spend some time with them and listen to what they have to say.
  • Make notes. I come away from meeting someone interesting and note down a few things that I might use later in a story.

My first novel, David’s Goliath by Steven Thompson is very much based on my life and experiences, many of the traits of the main character David are a mix of me and the people I have met. Here is a short excerpt -

He explained the origins of his name. His parents wanted something easy to remember. Not easy for them, but easy for other people. David’s father had been a salesman. He was called Steve Davidson and he met people for a living. He worked as a salesman for a printing company. He would go out and meet people that had been warmed up by the telephone sales team to discuss what was known in the trade as their ‘printing needs.’ It’s a terrible phrase and just one way the sales industry uses to dress up the fact that they are selling something. If they are fulfilling a need or providing a service then everyone feels better about it. Selling is a dirty word in sales, especially in front of the customers. It was his job to be memorable in order to secure a sale. And he really felt that the name Steve was not memorable. There were thousands of Steve’s out there and it was difficult to stand out. He was often called Simon or Stuart instead and Steve. Davidson felt he had to work twice as hard to secure a sale as some of his colleagues. The colleague who he envied the most when it came to name recognition was Stacey Smith, and obviously not for the Smith part. Stacey was a man with a name that could easily be mistaken for that of a woman so he was memorable. Stacey was always recalled by clients, even the clients of Steve. If he went to an appointment with a company that the firm had some business with in the past then people would drop in the name Stacey. It was an easy one to remember and one that opened doors a little. Unlike the name Steve.

This is a mix of a few people I met during my time working in sales. Stacey was a real person who hated his name when he was younger but loved it when he worked in sales. Steve was someone who worked with Stacey who was jealous of the name recognition that his colleague had. I wound these two people into my story.