Where do they come from? Those dashing heroes. The flawed, but determined heroines with the sharp wit and magnatism for trouble. Their quirky friends that add just the right comedic touch to keep the harsh scenes from becoming too depressing.
The simple answer is that they come from everywhere.
For me, they’re bits and pieces taken from strangers, family, and most importantly, from my own oddities and personality traits. Scary, right? One of me is quite enough without me passing my short-comings onto my characters, but without the flaws, there is no story. If characters don’t stumble, fail, learn, change and grow, then what’s the point of reading about them? If they always do the right thing, always make the right choices and say the right words, then their life is without conflict. Without conflict, there is no tension, none of that magic something that keeps us reading.
Perfection, in terms of fiction, is boring.
I’ve always been an observer of people for as long as I can remember. I don’t always understand why others do the things they do or behave certain ways, but I want to. When I’m in the grocery store, or at the pool with my daughter, I watch.
The woman who snaps at her child for no reason I can see. Why did she do that? What happened to her that day or in her life to lead her to that moment of anger. I study her eyes. The set of her mouth. The way she holds her body. I also watch the child, how he withdraws into himself.
A man walks past his girlfriend in the book store. Their fingers brush in an act that most would think coincidental, but her subsequent glance tells me otherwise. I take in their shared look, the flush of their skin, the knowing smiles, their fingers that link together as if they were always meant to be that way.
Everywhere I look, I find something fascinating that I file away for use in my writing. Both the good in people, and the bad.
The more a character struggles with themselves and their world, the more we’re drawn to them, the more we pull for them to make it to whatever ellusive goal the author sets for them.