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Where Do My Literary Characters Come From?


Yesterday at a Labor Day soirée, a young lady of one some nebulous teenage age walked in escorted by her boyfriend.

As a writer, I notice people all the time and a good 99.9% I brush off as simple background noise. Yet, once in awhile, I meet an individual who jumps out at me and their fate is sealed forever as a future character in one of my literary endeavors.

Now, you’re probably thinking that she was sexy, and gorgeous, and a beauty queen contestant and there you would be completely wrong. Too much of our literature is taken up by cookie-cutter beauties that all seem poured from the same mold.

How unspeakably boring.

This young lady did have two things going for her. First, a traditional hourglass figure with all the right curves. Second, her eyes were attractively large without intruding into some "anime"-"Uncanny Valley" effect.

Yet the poor child also had a receding chin, a slight overbite, and a set of braces that when she relaxed her face, forced her to keep her mouth open and her lips pulled back so she didn’t cut the inside of her cheeks to shreds. She also went w-a-y overboard on the eye shadow. Looking just at her face, you could say she was simply plain-looking.

But then she compensated everything with the world’s most perfect hair.

Slightly beyond shoulder length, framing her face to perfection, her hair cascaded down in brown curls that shone with highlights. One of the locks continually fell over her left eye so she had some combination of anime girl mixed with femme fatale Veronica Lake's trademark peekaboo hairstyle-something going on.

She spent the entire party simply listening to conversations going on around her, rarely speaking, smiling at some quip, and every twenty seconds (yes, I timed it), flipping that wayward lock out of her face only to have it fall immediately back over her left eye. She played the role, consciously or unconsciously, of the “mystery girl” to a T.

Was she beautiful?

No. No way.

She was something far better.

She was exotic.

There is a world of difference.

You will see her in one of my stories someday and the character will be based completely on her. She may be the protagonist, or the antagonist, or an important secondary character, but I will tell you this.

She will be far more interesting to read about than any other cookie-cutter lovely that pervades today’s media.

So remember. Make your characters special. If they start out as cookie-cut characters, have something happen in the story to make them stand out in the reader’s memory. It makes for a far, far better story.