“You’re in the business of creating characters,” a workshop leader at a writing conference once said. I agree I am. No, I’m not an actor, though I have a background in theater and played a few roles on the stage. That was stage one of my growth as a person, no pun intended. Stage one was the first twenty-four years of my adult life when I defined myself as an artist until I went down the rabbit hole of graduate school earning a Ph.D. and I called myself a scholar who studies performance. Stage two, public school teacher, spanned nearly two decades. Now solidly in the sixth year of stage three of this wonderful gift called life, I define myself as a fiction writer. So, yes indeed, I am in the business of creating characters.
Where do these characters come from? As a child, I hated fiction. “Tell me a real story,” I’d say to my mother at bedtime, so she enthralled me with tales of growing up on the Jersey Shore at the beginning of the twentieth century. Her adventures were far more interesting than those in the Little Golden Books of my childhood.
Through her stories, I encountered a number of intriguing characters, some I even met when I got older. Those were the indelible ones. Their stories were my secrets. I didn’t reveal what my mother had told me about their lives and how she had been touched by them, how she had grown stronger because of them or was deeply hurt and damaged by what they had done.
They were about real people. Where do fictional characters come from? They come from the only place possible, the writer’s imagination, which is nourished by life experience. I have met a lot of characters in my life, far too many to include in my fiction writing. That’s why I’m starting a new blog called Indelible Characters, where I will post vignettes inspired by people I have encountered. I may also cross-post them here so I can periodically breathe life into this portal until a revision of Eat Your Warrior Fish, my debut YA novel, is ready to launch.
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