Wednesday, July 14, 2010
How to use your friends
It was not a word-for-word use. Someone may have told me a funny story or said a funny line and it ended up inspiring another story inside my head, or that funny line brought to life a whole character for me. Up until a few days ago, this was the only way I used my friends and acquaintances in my stories.
I’m not going to tell you what he says word for word because I think everyone should go buy his book. It’s wonderful and just a few chapters into it I feel I have gained great insight into my own writing. Without giving you all the nitty-gritty details, I’ll paint you an unfinished picture of how to make your secondary characters pop by utilizing your friends.
The point is that your friends are a rich resource for creating amazing secondary characters. I know I had not tapped into this potential, and I will now. You don’t have to pattern a secondary character wholly after one friend. You can use several. Just think how interesting this character is going to be.
I recently created a character in my latest novel who is blunt to the point that she is constantly embarrassing everyone around her. She knows she is blunt and makes no apologies about it. The character thinks it’s better to speak your mind than dance around a topic with flowery words. This character, an aunt, came completely from my imagination. After I read the chapter about enriching secondary characters in Mr. Maass book, I pulled back and looked at my new character then thought of my friends. I realized I have a friend who is blunt without apology. She has a huge heart, is one of the smartest people I know, and has some very interesting quirks about her that make her uniquely her. I’m going to draw on some of her characteristics for my aunt in my book, and I have even thought of a pivotal moment in her life that I can use for another character.
Here is my personal warning. I would never paint a character so fully from a friend that everyone could recognize that person unless you ask your friend and he or she is okay with this, or there is nothing that might upset or hurt your friend about your character. I say this because as I was drawing on my friends as a resource I thought: what if someone created a character and used me as the guide. Would I be happy with the result? Are there things that I may not want the whole world to know? Absolutely. And let’s face it, you can change a person’s name, but if you are a good writer, that person will see himself or herself in the character.
Do you use your friends as resources for characters? If so, I’d love to hear how you go about doing it and if you have any caveats of your own.
Julie Johnstone, The Marchioness of Mayhem