Where Do Characters Come From?

It’s always interesting to consider the origins of characters in books. What part of the author appears in each one? Does any one particular character represent the author more than another? Or are characters simply what they seem – pure fictional creations?

Mr. G II

I’ve looked back over my own work with curiosity regarding this question. Clearly, since every character originates in my brain, each to some degree must represent my perspective on the world. I suspect this is the base upon which other considerations are layered.

But beyond that, if you have a protagonist, you must have an antagonist who defies the views of the hero, who represents moral opposition, who has a completely different agenda, or in some way offers dissonance. But is the antagonist also part of me? If we consider Jungian  philosophy in this context, we’d see the antagonist as our hidden dark side.

The more fiction I write, the more intrigued I am to read the books of other authors and using my own experience as a guide, try to discern what part of that author resides in a character. What part of T.C. Boyle is in Delaney in The Tortilla Curtain? What part of Hombre is in Elmore Leonard? What part of Joad is in Steinbeck? And most intriguing of all, what part of any of his characters is Stephen King?

Authors must use real life models for characters and generally not fleeting ones, such as movie stars or pop singers. We need models we have known more than superficially. Therefore I suggest that any relative or long standing friend or colleague of an author is in danger of finding themselves represented in a character, at least to some degree. This may occur without the author even realizing it. A colleague from my teaching days, after reading The Other, remarked on my use of another teacher in that school as a character. I didn’t even know I had done so.

Go figure!



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