Somebody’s Watching You: Finding Character Inspiration by Poppy Dennison
April 23, 2012 22 Comments
One of the things I love about Thorny’s blog is his ability to capture an image. He’s an observer, our Thorny. A handy skill for an “author-in-training”, as he calls himself. Remember back on St. Patty’s day, when he told us about the bar hop he and Jazz went on? Anyone besides me feel like they were there in the bar, watching Jazz and his antics?
I suspect that in a future Thorny story, we’ll come across a fun bar scene. It won’t be scene-for-scene what happened that night with his husband, but by watching the people around him Thorny can come up with some other characters, other emotions to build on as he creates the worlds in his novels. We might see an overworked waitress, or a funny bartender, or maybe a guy just making out on the street with his handsome younger man. (Hey, it can happen! Just ask Jazz!)
It’s another way of saying “write what you know.” Writers get that advice a lot, and by watching the people around us, and how they interact, we can take our characters further. You know what they say, if you’re friends with a writer, you might just end up in their next book. Or is it don’t make me kill you in my next book? I always get those two confused.
Either way, delving into emotions is difficult, but to really do our characters justice, we have to observe — and understand — what goes on in their minds. Take some time to look at the people around you. Family and friends are usually the first “victims”, but even the stranger next to you on the bus has a story to tell.
In my novel Mind Magic, one of the main characters is a father. It was very important to me to capture the relationship between Gray and his son Garon in a special way, one that expressed the reality of a loving father/son relationship, while keeping true to their werewolf roots.
But I’m not a father, or a werewolf for that matter. So how could I write a believable relationship? In this case, the relationship between my brother and his oldest son became the measuring post against which I wrote Gray and Garon. I’d ask myself if I could “hear” my nephew saying those words to his dad, or how my brother would react to a difficult conversation with his son.
Their relationships aren’t identical, but by watching a relationship similar to the one I wanted to create, I felt more comfortable with exploring the dynamic between these two characters.
Take a little time to explore the people around you. Who knows? You might find some character inspiration yourself.
Excerpt from Mind Magic:
That evening, Gray and Garon were in the kitchen making dinner. Garon liked helping, especially when they had burgers and fries, his favorite meal. “Kiddo, can you grab me the Worcestershire sauce and an egg from the fridge?”
“On it!” Garon ran over to the refrigerator, rattling the bottles in the door as he jerked it open.
“Easy!” Gray laughed, enjoying his son’s antics.
“Sorry, Dad.” Garon grabbed an egg from the carrier and then snagged the bottle of sauce from the door. “Nothing broken.” He slammed the door and made everything rattle again.
He handed the items over with a sheepish grin and resumed watching Gray add his “secret ingredients” to the meat. “Hey, why’s it called Worst-a-cheer sauce, anyway?”
“Worcestershire,” Gray corrected, “and I don’t know. Probably because that’s where it’s made.” Gray added a splash to the meat then handed the bottle back to Garon.
Taking a sniff of it, Garon turned up his nose. “It’s kind of stinky if you ask me. What’s in it, anyway?”
“I’m not sure. Check out the label. It’ll tell us.”
Garon read while Gray cracked the egg open and added it to the mixture. “Gross! Dad, it has anchovies in it!”
“Gross,” Gray agreed. “But it sure does taste good in burgers.”
“Yeah. It’s kinda weird how there’s so much stuff in it, don’t you think?” Garon put the lid back on and put the bottle away. He opened the door with comic slowness and closed it in the same way with a smirky grin.
Gray laughed as Garon came back over to the counter. “You can be silly all you want, but that door is going to fall off one of these days, and you’re going to clean up the mess!”
Garon snorted. “Nope, I’ve learned my lesson.” He waited for Gray to finish adding salt and pepper to the bowl of meat, then took a deep breath and asked, “So, mixing up all this stuff together in the burgers makes them taste better, right?”
His son’s face was very serious, after he’d just been laughing the moment before. Gray tried to figure out where Garon was going with this line of questioning, but had no idea. He decided to just go with the flow, hoping Garon would reveal what was on his mind. “Well, I think so. You want to mash them up?”
It was Garon’s job to mix the meat and press it into patties. They switched spots, and Garon stuck his hands into the mess. “So, sometimes, mixing things up is okay, right?”
“Well, I suppose so. Depends on what you’re mixing up.”
“Yeah. This meat is cold, Dad.”
“Want me to take over?”
“Nope, I can do it.” Garon continued mixing, his face set in concentration. “Dad, can I ask you something important?”
“Why did that demon thing hurt me?”
Mind Magic Blurb:
Magical species must never mix. According to the rules, Simon Osborne should ignore the children’s cries for help. After all, they’re werewolf cubs, and he’s an apprentice mage. But for once in his life, Simon breaks the rules and rescues the cubs, saving them from a demon intent on draining them of their magic.
Of course, all actions have consequences, and Simon’s bold move earns him the displeasure of his peers and the attention of the cubs’ alpha, a man named Gray Townsend.
The last thing Gray needs is a mage in his life, but Simon did save his son. Since Simon is now a friend of the pack, Gray doesn’t have much choice about it—or the forbidden attraction that goes along with it. Unfortunately for the alpha, he needs Simon’s help to track down the demon behind the kidnappings—before it strikes again. Simon and Gray must join forces to protect the pack, even as they struggle to resist the temptation that threatens to destroy them both.
A sassy southern lady, Poppy Dennison developed an obsession with things that go bump in the night in her early years after a barn door flew off its hinges and nearly squashed her. Convinced it was a ghost trying to get her attention, she started looking for other strange and mysterious happenings around her. Not satisfied with what she found, Poppy has traveled to Greece, Malaysia and England to find inspiration for the burly bears and silver foxes that melt her butter. Her love of paranormal continues to flourish nearly thirty years later, and she writes steamy love stories about the very things that used to keep her up all night. If her childhood ghost is lucky, maybe one day she’ll give him his own happily ever after.