Where my Characters Come From


People ask how I come up with my characters. Obviously no author can make all of their characters from whole cloth.

I will use my book Reducing Medical Costs (At the Cost of Health) as an example.

Occasionally, I will make a character from whole cloth. My villain, Mack Messer, is totally imaginary. Messer is the German word for knife so his name is Mack the Knife . He is a cold-blooded professional killer. I decided to make him a specialist. Since I want an attack on a doctor, I have him specializing in wiping out medical people. I threw in the British accent just to make him stand out and so that one of the characters would recognize his voice on the phone.

Most of the time, however, my characters are the composite of several real persons. I prefer family and friends because I know them best, and I am not averse to using myself as part of a character. I try to change names enough that no one will be embarrassed.

I will have a specific person in mind. Then I graft personality traits into that person to make the particular character I need in a story. Some characters will be a blend of as many as five of six persons.

For example, I know several doctors well. I picked one who is about the right age and let him retain his specialty. Then I tweaked his character to include characteristics of other doctors. Unfortunately, I had to make him vulnerable so I allow him to suffer from several medical problems. I started with the problems he already has, but to make him sufficiently at risk, I had to give him a life threatening condition that I borrowed from several of my friends. I also gave him and his brother a childhood in Northern Wisconsin where they fished a lot. Thus they can prearrange codes that sound like fishing stories. Dr. Charles Conway was ready for the story after I fabricated a family for him that would be useful in the plot of the story.

For my heroine, Lois Bunting, I started with the retired language arts teacher who proofreads for me. Though she is over seventy, her hair is still jet black. She is proud that she does not dye it. The hero, a widower, finds her very attractive. She is no longer married so I was able to fit her into the role of a widow. Again I modified her by adding bits of other teachers. To meet the needs of the plot, I had to give her a serious medical condition, but one that did not discourage the story’s hero from wanting to marry her. During my own teaching career, I worked closely with other teachers with rooms on the same hall. Often close friendships resulted between teachers across the hall from each other. We tended to support each other, especially when the “tough boys” tried to intimidate the women or the “beautiful girls” tried to use their charms on the men. I modified this character to be somewhat like a neighbor of mine who walks her dog on the range. Before her dog died, My wife and I would often meet her with her dog when we walked our dogs, We would walk with her, while the dogs ran ahead, looking for rabbits to chase. Because Lois walks her dog on the range, she is available to interact with the hero and several other characters.

The dogs, Rags, Atlas and Chico, are based on real dogs. Rags was inspired by the little white dog my neighbor used to walk on the range. Atlas was created by starting with the German Shepherd up the street and giving him some of the character traits of the large black dog we used to own. Chico is the standard yappy little Chihuahua that is common in our neighborhood. I made him a side kick for Atlas.

Some of the characters may resemble my friends, but I assure you they are fictional. (Some of my friends are careful not to upset me for fear they might appear as a villain in my next story.)

Reynold Conger is the author of several books. Please visit his website http://www.ReynoldConger.com. More about Reducing Medical Costs (At the Expense of Health) can be found on Reynold’s website.

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About Reynold Conger

Reynold Conger is a retired scientist, engineer and teacher. Now writing fiction. His books are CHASED ACROSS AUSTRALIA, MY KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR and REDUCING MEDICAL COSTS (AT THE COST OF HEALTH). He has also started a series of novelas called THE RICHARD TRACY SERIES. Residence: New Mexico, USA Hobbies: gardening, animals and running. website www.ReynoldConger.com
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One Response to Where my Characters Come From

  1. Pingback: Do My Friends Get in Stories? | Reynold Conger Wouldn't Write if It Were Not Fun

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