On Character Development
A number of The Carrot readers have asked if I modeled the character, Pete Walsh, after Matthew McConaughey; the blond hair, the sexy southern lilt, the bigger than life personality. I get that. As writers we are affected by anything and everything. Do I find that particular actor amazingly attractive? Why, yes I do. I know few women or men—be honest with yourselves!—who don’t. Did he affect the development of that character? Hmm…
I believe to a certain degree, characters develop themselves… Oh, you need a villain? I bet his/her/its face is similar to one you’ve seen, its persona a compilation of some you’ve known, its behavior a blending of bad experiences you’ve had—that wicked Starbucks barista who wouldn’t remake your latte, the 8th grade math teacher who almost failed you—wretched bitch (oops! Did I write that out loud?), your friend’s meanie boss that you have to hear about ad naseum, Dick Chaney?
And eventually they take on lives of their own… I can’t believe he just said that!—that’s awesome. Quick write it down. Yep, that’s a swagger if I’ve ever seen one. Wow, what an evil facial expression he just made—stop glaring at me, freak! It’s a little like building Frankenstein—we use bits and pieces of our life’s fabric, sew them together, and then, as lightning strikes, darned if they don’t get up, blunder around, wreak havoc, and do things we didn’t initially expect. Congratulations author, you’ve just created matter from nothingness! Really, Einstein, your theories are so last millennium.
1. Is my Pete Walsh Matthew McConaughey? If my readers say he is, then who am I to argue? If they hear his voice when they read Pete’s dialog, imagine those abs when Pete yanks off his t-shirt, more power to them.
2. If they imagine a brooding Daniel Day-Lewis type, it’s their absolute prerogative.
A reader has sole rights to fashion your characters into their own images—to combine with yours, their experiences, thoughts, ideas, voice. As authors, we create flesh and bones, but readers dress those bodies however they wish. Remember, you’re sharing your precious gift with them. Let them enjoy it.
The influx of self-published books and their success in the marketplace is indicative of an open-minded audience willing to try unfamiliar names not backed by large publishing houses. It’s a truly great time to be an author!