Characters

“Write what you know.” That is probably the most common writing advice EVER. But I think it could be tweaked just a bit to “Write WHO you know.” Now, of course, you don’t want to have a character who is easily recognizable as a real person, especially if they are portrayed in an unflattering light. But, there’s nothing wrong with combining traits from several people you know into one character, or if you know someone who is especially, shall we say “interesting,” splitting off some of those characteristics into more than one character. From the standpoint of being a writer, I will always be indebted to my ex-husband for introducing me to a number of people I would otherwise had no occasion to meet. There’s not one but two gun dealers, one techno-geek, the other pure sleaze; one guy who rarely chose to speak, but wore only black clothing and eyeliner; a compulsive liar; a friend who seemed nice on the surface, but was utterly callous and self-serving underneath; an assortment of former Guardian Angels; and a couple of on-again-off-again “exotic” dancers with drug habits. Some of these people were in the situations they were in by their own choice and volition; others because that was the environment they were born into and they didn’t know how to change it. I frequently flavor my casts of characters with little bits and pieces of these people, or “what-ifs” of them (what if X had chosen to do this instead of that, how would his/her life have been different?). I think everyone knows at least one person who has some idiosyncrasy, belief or hobby that is profoundly interesting or incomprehensible (or both).