Inspiration and Us – How Do We Find Our Characters?

As we all know, characters are one of the most fundamental parts of fiction.  This is why we fall in love with a certain series – we are intrigued by the characters.  So where do we conjure up these story people who readers always want to know more about?  I have different methods but in this post I want to demonstrate how sometimes they simply find us.

I had to take my son, Will to rehearsals yesterday for a production he is appearing in next week.  Unfortunately, we had all had the sickness bug and I still felt as if I was on a sailing boat in high winds.  So the thought of hanging around for two hours was not an attractive proposition.  It then occurred to me that I might feel better in the glorious scenery and fresh air of the country park.  What could be more relaxing and uplifting than being surrounded by greenery whilst watching swans floating regally on the lake?

To take away the nausea, I stared at the swans gliding towards me, took deep breaths and imagined medieval music playing in the background.  I was starting to lose my physical discomfort when bounding out of the bushes was a man dressed head to foot in combat gear wielding a weapon.  For a split second, I thought he was after my handbag.  It was a truly uncomfortable moment as there was no-one else around and we were quite a way off from sanctuary.

He rushed past me as if we were in a war zone and he was trying to escape.  I have to tell you at this point that this is a rural, leafy backwater where you have to say hello to every stranger who walks past with their dog.  As I focussed upon him properly, I realised that it wasn’t a weapon he was wielding but one of those huge, phallic type cameras.  He was taking photos of the swans.  I made a quick exit and headed for the visitor centre thinking I would sit inside on one of the benches and gaze at the ducks outside through the walls of glass.

Pair of Wood Ducks

Pair of Wood Ducks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After popping yet another boiled sweet into my mouth to take away the nausea, I gazed at a couple of sleeping ducks and suffered envy – true, green, poisonous jealousy.    The jealousy was just on the point of going as I decided I didn’t really want to be a sleeping duck when he appeared again.  He was there aiming his huge camera at the ducks with the aggression and intensity of a hunter.  His camera truly was his rifle.  The ducks looked as if an earthquake at the side of them wouldn’t awaken them, yet he was there breathing heavily ready for action.  It was at this point that his name came to me – he was obviously called Theophile Twitcher.  The ducks slept, he waited and I watched.

After about ten minutes of inactivity, Twitcher heard a noise behind him and he turned around aiming his lethal weapon slowly, like the police do on the television when they rush into a building and don’t know who is hiding there.  Unfortunately, for him, another male duck approached the sleeping duck couple and a duck spat broke out.  Twitcher was too busy searching for lions or bears or whatever with his gun, I mean camera.  He then stalked off.

After popping another boiled sweet into my mouth, I noticed him strutting off into the distance.  I could see a huge, bulging rucksack on his back as he covered every movement and sound with his camera.  He was dressed and equipped as if he was miles away from civilisation.  At this point ,I did wonder if he realised he was in a country park in England.  No doubt, I will never find out but what I did find was a character for my next Will Blyton book.  The seed had been planted, over the next weeks and months this man will turn into a fully formed story person with a back story, personality and problems. I think the children will love him and I’m really looking forward to meeting him.  Have you had any similar experiences?


Filed under Creative Writing, Inspiration and Us

4 responses to “Inspiration and Us – How Do We Find Our Characters?

  1. I shall tell Charley to be more careful how she wields her phallic type camera now! Do hope you feel better soon and are well enough to do something other than lurk about stalking twitchers!! 🙂

  2. Lol. That cameraman seems like a real character(excuse the pun)!

    You really got me thinking about how we come up with characters Michelle. I never really thought about it before. Usually when it comes to vizualising a character in my head, I do base their appearance on someone I know or even a celebrity but not necessarily their personality. I’m not even sure how I come up with their personality, the creative process can be very difficult to comprehend and explain sometimes… 🙂

    • You are so right. This was one of the things which came up when I did an M.A. (Creative Writing). For everything which was written creatively, we had to write an essay on how it happened – so where the ideas came from, re-writes etc.. It is amazing where ideas come from. Also recently, I have been reflecting on some of my characters and realising that Literature has been a huge springboard for that. I also had another moment of self discovery this last week when writing about Nancy Drew. Up until then I had not realised that my weakness for a certain type of hat came from reading Nancy Drew whilst a girl. Isn’t that strange? I’m off to Haworth today – do you think I will see any of the Brontes? Probably if I close my eyes and dream.

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