My friend Whitney Carter is struggling a little with one of her male characters. She had always thought he looked like Kevin Sorbo, but then her character told her he didn’t look like that. Oops.
It made me think a little. I wonder how my writer friends out there come up with their characters.
For me, it’s a mix. For instance, in Bronze Raiders, my main character, Hektor, was based upon Barack Obama. I didn’t think he looked like Barack Obama, just that he acted like him—smiled a lot, positive, idealistic, charismatic. To this day, I have no idea what he looked like. I never described him in my story (no one even seemed to notice, which I found interesting).
For Hektor’s love interest, I chose Kiera Knightly. Always thought she was cute. I’ve also used Charlton Heston, and Gina Carano as templates for characters in my story. Sometimes I use people I know—like an old cowboy friend I used to know. Sometimes I use a historical character—Robert E. Lee or Nathan Bedford Forrest, for example.
Many times, though, I don’t have a person in mind. They just are. Many times I’ll start with an archetype and work off it. Sometimes I mix characters I know or imagine. I learn about them as I write my rough draft and more of their personalities come out in subsequent drafts. It’s always kind of fun (and unexpected).
So, how do you guys do it? What do you base your characters on? Real people? People you know? Celebrities? Archetypes?