Are you Becky Jack? [SPOILERS]|
I know many writers who base their main character on themselves and transform people they know (their spouses, close friends, ex-boyfriends, irritating neighbors) into the supporting cast. I've never done this. I've never consciously based any of my characters on a real person. I don't think that's a bad exercise, it's just not natural, interesting, or helpful to me. Sometimes after I have a character I'll borrow traits from people I know to help flesh them out (as I did with my brother and Razo from The Books of Bayern--he's not Razo, but they share some idiosyncrasies). But I have never tried to write a non-fiction person into a fictional role, and I especially don't base characters on myself.
The truth is, of course, that all a writer's characters are part of the writer. My characters all come from my brain, so clearly pieces of me are in there. And in one instance, princess academy, I tried to specifically recall my own troubles and views at a certain age and used those to inform my character. Miri isn't me, but she shares more of my younger self than any other of my characters. And she was the most challenging character I ever wrote. (Another reason I avoid that tactic.)
Part of my love of writing is the same as my love of reading. Writing gets me involved in a story in an intensive and intimate way. I get to go far, far away, fly to new realms, live inside characters who will see and do things I never can. I am not the least bit tempted to write my own life. I love my life, I'm very happy with myself (most of the time, when I'm not being a spacehead or blunderer) but I already know myself and my life. I want to meet new people.
So, no, Becky Jack is not me. Given that we have a similar background (women, live in Utah, Mormon, mother, etc.) I think it's natural that people assume that. That's okay with me--I like Becky, and she's got a lot of really admirable qualities I wish I had. And she has some qualities and world views I'm glad not to have. Part of the reason I like her. Just as it wouldn't be interesting to me to write myself or people I know really well, it would be incredibly boring to write a perfect person (whatever that might be). For me, characters grow organically from the story. A character is what they say and do, so I get to know my characters by writing them. And while I'm writing, I never think in terms of "here are her good qualities, and now I'll give her some flaws." I just write the character the best I can without judgement or measuring sticks of any kind, then step back and see what I've got.
The first time someone assumed that Becky was me, I was surprised and wondered if I was being ignorant. So I asked my husband after he'd read it, "Do you think I'm Becky?"
"No!" he said, shocked by the idea. "I like Becky, she's a good character, but I don't think I'd even be friends with her. And really, I think you're a lot more interesting than she is."
What a sweetie. I think. I'm sure he's not saying that Becky isn't interesting. Right? Right, honey? No, he's just saying that I'm SUPER interesting. Of course that's it. Thanks, honey.
So who is Felix Callahan?
I can tell you who he's not--Colin Firth. I've written here about how I suspect he may have started as Colin Firth in my subconscious, but by the time I woke up, he had morphed into his own being. There were several actors I thought about as I wrote this--Colin of course, Cary Grant, Pierce Brosnan, Rupert Everett, Ralfe Fiennes, Jude Law, Hugh Grant, Ewan McGregor...I think there were others but I'm blanking--but none of them were the basis of this character. I think it's completely cool if you have a certain actor you imagine as being Felix. That's part of the fun of reading, applying your own interpretations, making it your own story. (I've had one reader who let me know she ignored any mentions I made to age because she preferred to imagine Felix was nineteen years old.) But for me, Felix is Felix, and after two and a half years of writing him, he's 100x more real in my head than any of those actual people. I can't even comprehend believing him to be anyone but himself.
And who is Mike?
No one. I know, I'm so predictable. Several people have thought he is my own husband. I cannot even absorb that thought. I love Mike, but I could never have written this kind of a story and based the husband on my own. There are aspects of Mike's relationship with Becky that are reminiscent of my own with Dean, but others that are very different. And really, he's as much (or more) Felix as Mike. I'm going to say Dean is 2 parts Mike, 3 parts Felix, and 5 parts neither. But I'm not going to tell you which parts. Dean prefers to be mysterious...
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