I have noticed recently that most of my characters are an mixture of people I know in real life. I will have an idea for a character in my head, but I usually have more of an idea for the story than the characters when I start to write. As I write the story, personality characteristics from my friends and family begin to find their way into my stories.
In the most recent work I crafted, I had a particular character who ended up taking aspects of a friend I know from tennis, as well as a coworker that I admire. She took on negative and positive traits of both these women, and I felt like it made her a more believable and relatable character. She talks to much at time, and it can annoy those around her, but she is also calming, emotionally intelligent and works well with other women.
The personality, however, that I find myself most often referencing is myself. Most of my main characters have something to do with my personality, or the way that I perceive myself. Many of my main characters are impulsive (me) and somewhat outspoken (also me) and sometimes unnecessarily sarcastic (me again). I don’t consciously enter into a story meaning to create a character that represents me in some way, it just often happens. I know at least another writer who admits to doing this often– Stephen King. And hey, if it is good enough for the undisputed king of literary horror, it is good enough for this author.
(Me above, inserting myself and people I know into my writing .)
This strong identification with my main characters may be the reason I struggle with sustaining major male characters in longer work. I have a (nearly finished) novella / short story where the three main characters are males, but that is the exception rather than the rule. These male characters are all based on actual historical people, so that definitely made it easier. I researched events that might have actually happened to these men, and then crafted their reactions to them.
I think creating likable, believable and human characters is the most important aspect of getting readers to want to read your continued work. I found this true as a reader. I would only buy and read further books in a series, and other works by an author, if I liked the characters they had created and cared what happened to them. This is especially true if you write in genres such as mystery or fantasy. Authors in these genres often have multiple books with the same characters. When their readers care about their characters and want to find out what happens to the, this ensures continued readership.
Does anyone else accidentally write themselves into their stories? How do you deal with characters of different genders and backgrounds? How do other writers out there in the blogosphere create memorable characters– characters that their readers can care about?