Blog Hopping. If only they knew!

Welcome to another BlogHop. with #OpenBook. Here’s this week’s prompt

What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

Three things; thanks, an explanation and an apology. Maybe not in that order.

Although I set my novels mostly in the future or an alternative now, as far as I’m concerned, the people in them are real people. I see their adventures in my head and try to write them down in a way which brings them to life on the page.

Their personalities contain a combination of the characteristics of family members, neighbours or people I’ve seen or overheard in coffee shops. Not forgetting the people that I would have liked to have been, in another life and time.

It’s really quite surprising, the things people will say when they think nobody is listening. Even before I was a writer, I always listened to conversations and observed behaviour, there is so much material that would otherwise go to waste.

For obvious reasons, I can’t name them all in the dedication, even if I knew their names. And I’m sure that if they had only known that I was listening, they might not have been so indiscreet.

So I have to thank them all, especially the unknowing. And apologise if I have cast them in an unforgiving light. Remember, all I had to go on was what you said and did.

As for my own part in all of this, my history has a lot to do with it.

I spent years in the merchant navy, carrying cargo around the world. So I guess it’s no surprise that my first character, Dave Travise, was a trader. Only in his case; he was going from planet to planet. Like many of the officers and crews I shared long voyages with, he was a lover of solitude, with an interesting past. I tried to make his life like my shipmates would have been; if we had been carrying cargo in his time. A lot of his adventures were just interstellar versions of things that happened to me or people that I knew.

Miles Goram, the disgraced journalist in The Balcom series, was a victim of circumstance, caught up in other peoples power games. He was based on someone I knew, a man who seemed to get all the bad luck, yet always came out smiling.

Then there was my Steampunk hero, Horis Strongman. He was the quintessential Victorian gentlemen; modest, capable and resourceful.  Aided by his newfound friends Grace and Maloney, he set out to right wrong, and protect those who he cared for. In a world like ours of the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, he and his friends were modelled on the explorers and adventurers of the time, men like Burton, Speke, Livingstone, Lawrence and their ilk. People who Jules Verne and H.G. Wells wrote so beautifully about. Like Dave Travise, he also yearned for a quiet life.

Andorra Pett was different, a female amateur detective, she was based on the ladies in my life, my wife and three daughters. Combining all their good points with a flair for accident and foot-in-mouth, I used incidents from their childhood as a basis for her personality and witty banter. And for her mishaps too. Although I have been careful never to have ascribed any of it to one of them in particular. After all, they will choose my nursing home and I want one with good biscuits.

Dan and Rick, the main character in Life and Other Dreams came from my own life, from dreams I had where I lived in a town that was similar to my real home. There were just enough differences in the two places and lives to suggest that one mans dreams could be another man’s reality. After a lot of research on the brain and our perception of consciousness, the novel was born.

I have plenty of material for new characters, more amalgamations of people I pass in the street, hear talking too loudly in pubs and coffee shops or find browsing in shops. If you ever think one of my characters or situations is vaguely familiar, it’s possible that I was standing behind you at some time.

What I’m trying to say is that,

although I write about a fictional world, I don’t populate it with outlandish fictional characters. When we travel from this world, we may be in the future but we will still be us. We will take all our good points with us, along with our vices. We will just play with our emotions on a bigger stage.

I want believable characters in my novels. If I mix and match real people and events to create them, they will be recognisable. They will feel familiar and readers will be comfortable in their presence. If I can convince you, the reader, that my worlds are filled with relatable characters, no matter what they are getting up to, then I’ve achieved my purpose.

I’d love to get your comments, please leave them below. While you’re here, why not take a look around? There are some freebies and lots more content, about me, my writing and everything else that I do. You can join my newsletter for a free novella and more news by clicking this link.

I’ll be back on Thursday with another Showcase post, featuring an Indie Author with something to say. Please click the links to see the other great blogs on this hop.

8 Responses

  1. Lela Markham

    I was actually having this conversation with my husband today. He’s visiting his father, who lacks both cable television and internet, so my husband is reading my books. He’s not a big fiction reader. So he asked me who a couple of my characters are based on and when I said “No one but themselves” he disbelieved me. I explained characters just appear in my mind and start telling me their stories. (I’ve told him this before, but I don’t think he had anything to base it on because he’d never read all the books all the way through). Yes, I borrow elements from people we know – turns of phrases, gestures, hobbies and habits, maybe a physical characteristic, but I rarely base a character on a real person and when I do, it’s always a struggle to write them. I much prefer the characters who tell me their stories. It’s so much less work.

    And, I love to listen to conversations others don’t think are being overheard. It would be a shame to waste all that material.

  2. Stevie Turner

    I think many writers take inspiration from overheard conversations and character traits from people we know. I certainly do too!

    • Richard Dee

      I used to be embarrassed to listen, now I think, “if you didn’t want me to hear, you wouldn’t have shouted.”

  3. P.J. MacLayne

    Sometimes watching their actions- how they move their hands, how they hold their head- can provide more entertainment and revelations than the actual words they speak

    • Richard Dee

      Very true, and it can give clues to whether they mean what they are saying!

  4. Robbie Cheadle

    This was an interesting read, Richard. I suppose most writers do incorporate characteristics of people they know into their books. We take from what we know.

    • Richard Dee

      Thanks, I have a stock of prompts and observations from the unwitting.

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