Wednesday, June 17, 2020

It's alive! by Cathy Ace

Life: Do you ever base characters on real people? (Famous, or people you know in your real life.) And, if so, how do you deal with that?

The short answer to this is no, so…if I know you, or even if you’re wildly famous, you won’t find yourself in one of my books.

With my chum Annie - part of Annie Parker
That said, I often use a mash-up of the physical, social, and psychological attributes of several people I know/have met to create a single character. So…if we’ve ever met, there might be a little of you in one of my characters.

When it comes to creating characters, I try to make them as real as possible. That doesn’t mean they’ll all be likeable, or pleasant, because my main aim is to make them relatable. However, they also have to be created to allow my storytelling to work, which means that – beyond being merely fictional, and relatable – they also have to work in the reader’s mind on many levels, in that they don’t just “exist” in my work as a mere character to fill out the pages; they have a role to perform, too. 

With my chum Eustelle - part of Annie Parker
Possibly the best example I can give of this is to talk about one of my characters – Annie Parker, in The WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries. She’s a character made up of several parts: Annie, my friend of about 30 years; Eustelle, my friend of about 30 years; the character created by that mash-up, and the way that “person” acts within my fictional world of the Welsh village of Anwen-by-Wye. 

The real Annie gives the fictional Annie her warm-heartedness, her clumsiness, her specific professional background, and a fair bit of her attitude toward life. The real Eustelle (I used the name Eustelle for the character of Annie’s mother in the books) gives the fictional character Annie her physical being, her warm-heartedness, a fair bit of her attitude toward life, part of her family background, and part of her professional background. That mash-up then exists and acts in a certain way in my fictional world because she has “become” that fictional character. I can visualise, and know how my fictional Annie would act in any situation, just as I can visualise and understand the same about the two real people who have contributed to her existence. However, there are a great number of aspects of the real Annie and Eustelle that I have not gifted to the character of Annie, because I there’s no way a fictional character can be as fully formed as a whole, real person…the detail would drive a reader nuts – even if it’s dribbled out over multiple books – and isn’t usually necessary for a story to work. Both real people know about their fictional alter-ego, and have “approved” her! Phew!

You can meet Annie Parker in this series
I have also crafted characters from parts of many different people I know…stitching together bits from lots of folks into one whole person. So, yes, Dr. Frankenstein had a good idea, in some ways, though hopefully most of my characters fare rather better than his creation.  

If you'd like to meet more of my characters, you can find them by CLICKING HERE.


Paul D. Marks said...

Love the stitching together various elements from various Frankenstein, Cathy. Great image.

Cathy Ace said...

LOL, Paul - sometimes I see it happening, know it's happening and control it. Other times it just happens all on its own!