The People in My Head

Over the last five weeks I’ve discussed the notebooks I created for my fantasy world, Ontyre. With each (history, geography/maps, culture, magic, and the glossary) the insights returned to me via feedback were priceless.

Not your typical medieval fantasy character.

Not your typical medieval fantasy character.

Now, ready to touch upon the last topic (characters), I sit perplexed, for I little see where I’ve much to add beyond what others have shared on other blogs.

Well, I suppose there’s little harm in sharing my approach. What I share may aid someone and sharing ideas often generates new insights.

I start with a vague image in my head and from there construct a physical description. Also, I determine the character’s birthdate and generate notes pertaining to personality, habits, and personal history. In special cases I create a genealogical diagram. Too, I also create records for figures from the past if their influence upon the present is significant.

That’s the beginning.

During the writing process the character’s picture becomes clearer, their actions and decisions further defining their lines and adding color. Thus, over time the character’s portrait is altered, though seldom is the difference considerable.

I’m often asked where my characters come from? Are they based on real people? Do I seek revenge upon those I dislike, turn them into evil characters, and plot their demise?


Perhaps some take such an approach, but I never have. I don’t believe I’ve ever translated a real person into character form so directly.

My style is to create composites, to color each character with different brushes and paints that are derived from my imagination, historical figures, people I’ve known, and me.

I view the “me” as the most important element because that’s how I truly breath life into those who populate my stories.

Every character, for better or worse, possesses at least a small piece of Christina Anne Hawthorne. That’s my connection to each of them. That’s my sympathy umbilical cord. Because each character and I share a physical or psychological attribute I can, to a degree, see through their eyes. Without that connection I view them as one-dimensional caricatures and feel no emotional attachment to them.

Of course, I hopefully share more with my protagonist than with any antagonist. Ergain and I share several weaknesses, but I’ll admit that she’s far better at horseback riding. On the other hand, Sorcerer Radru and I both know what it is to possess a deep hurt that extends into the distant past. I’ve fought hard to move on. Radru, on the other hand, took a different path.

That’s where my people come from. Your people? Feel free to share.

5 Replies to “The People in My Head”

  1. People often say, when they find out I’m wriitng a novel ‘Put me in your book!’ I have never wanted to pur real people in my book, least of all people I’m fond of because characters need to be flawed. The most intersting ones have lots of flaws and weakness that effect them and ones they don’t always overcome. I find it really hard to explain that they really don’t *want* to be in the book because if they were they probably wouldn’t like what they’d become. It’s tricky!

    • You’re VERY correct! I’ve gotten the same question and I usually deflect it with the “my characters are composites” remark. Even so, what they don’t realize—and what you point out—is that characters need to be flawed. For them to seem to the reader we MUST show their many facets, good and bad. Can you imagine trying to write a book populated with sterilized characters who are copies of friends and relatives? Yikes! Great comment.

      • Thank you! I like your idea of them being composites very much. I suppose all characters must be – you don’t create characters in a vacuum, your ideas must come from somewhere, possibly informed from fiction you enjoy or even by aspects of people you know. But yes indeed carbon-copies, and, what’s more, *polite*, complimentary carbon-copies of people you know…these would not make interesting characters!

        • Truly. I’ve also always thought that basing a character entirely on one person would create a barrier for me and stifle my creativity. Just imagine: “Oh, the king can’t do that because that’s not something Uncle Charlie would ever do.” Probably not, and it’s likely Uncle Charlie was never a king, either. I prefer for my characters to come from their own history and not someone else’s.

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