Characters,  Writing World

Characters: Where Do They Come From?

Where do your characters come from?

I have no idea. Back when I attempted my first novel, my main character was a fictionalized version of me. She lived in the suburbs like me. And actually, that’s where the similarities ended, but it was my first attempt at fictionalizing my life. I tried it one other time with my next novel attempt (actually finished that one), and then I lost all interest in writing about myself.

But I think about this sometimes, if I can see myself in any of my characters. None of them are purposefully like me, so it’s fun to see what aspects our personalities we have in common, because I think a bit of ourselves can’t help but rub off on some of our characters sometimes.

It’s interesting though. In the recently completed DISCORD, the main character is so weird, even I think she’s weird! Like me, she’s guarded, but it’s on a whole different level of paranoia, unlike anything I’ve ever written before. I try to stay true to the little monsters so I just went with it, and OMG, when she finally broke down, it was all worth it. All the trouble the story ever gave me = worth it. All the reservations I had about her personality = gone. It was amazing. ^_^

But still, I have no idea where she came from, besides the deep, dark recesses of my brain. She was just there, waiting for the right opportunity to attack me, waiting for my guard to be down. Waiting for me to be super distracted. She was sneaky like that. And that was smart of her, because I have to be honest. If she had come up to me a year ago and asked me to write her story, I would have run away. As it was, she caught me open-minded and wandering.

Because I was at a loss, you know. I was swimming in ideas, yeah, but I was afraid to work on any of them, because I was afraid of messing them up. And I was afraid of finishing something because I didn’t want to go into the query trenches again. So it would have to be something pretty intriguing and different to get me not only to give it a try, but to finish it and hop back in the trenches with it.

And I still have no idea why I thought it was so interesting.

So, I look at who I have on my plate now, Riley, Jade, and Safara. Where did they come from?

Safara started talking to me one random December morning while I was driving to work. Just started talking to me out of nowhere while she floating there, underwater, not a mermaid. And I thought, “She’s interesting! How is she pulling that off?!”

Jade was inspired by a folklore character I’m infatuated with, so I actually do know where she came from, though I don’t know why she’s a twin (because she’s not in the folklore) or why she has the kind of messed up sense of humor that she has. But I can see why I find her so interesting at least, and Safara as well, unlike the last character in this list.

Riley is the most normal girl I have ever written about. Yeah, she’s an orphan, but she has no special abilities. She’s not even especially weird or crazy or even temperamental. She’s just a teenager, recently dumped, who’s trying to move on with her life. And I’m looking at her like, “Why do I like you so much?” I can’t for the life of me figure out why she’s was worth so much trouble.

Why did I promise her I’d find her a story when so many seemingly more interesting characters get nothing?

Yes, I have the odd regular girl story in the the story graveyard, but the rest of the place is full of chosen ones, people with interesting abilities, or at the VERY LEAST, people with powerful friends. Even Riley’s friends are normal.

And I have no idea where she came from either. I was playing a Temple Run game one Thursday afternoon March of 2013 (yep), and suddenly I see this girl running around getting attacked by stuff, and though she was tough, she WASN’T FIGHTING BACK! And still, for some reason, I dropped my phone and ran for a notebook and a pen. And I had her name, and everyone else’s, in a matter of minutes. Minutes.

And names are the hardest most grievous part of the story for me. (That and organizing my brainstorming notes.) And Riley gave me her name and theirs on a platter. Maybe that’s why I like her so much.

And hey, if this goes well, and so far it is! This just may inspire more “average” MCs for me! It’s something I’ve been afraid of for a while, thinking myself incapable of pulling it off. I have a lot of ideas, and some of them are regular peeps who find themselves in the craziest situations, and I would so love to write them all, though I’m looking at one particular idea on the horizon! (Coming for ya, chica!) 😉

So tell me…Do you know where your characters come from?

Side Note: The September Secret Agent Contest over on Miss Snark’s First Victim opens up next Monday (the 8th). It’s the last one for the year! Accepting MG, YA, and Adult submissions this round. 🙂


  • Michelle A (@SunflowerRei)

    I love naming my characters. They don’t feel real unless they have names. I think Victoria definitely came to be while watching Downton Abbey. I have a few “regular girl” characters in the past, but they were basically me plunked down in not-me situations,so they never developed on their own. I know better now 🙂

    • krystal jane

      That’s probably why you’re so good at it! Because you love it so much. 🙂 Yeah, I absolutely cannot brainstorm right if I don’t have names for everyone. And the right names. The last story I finished last year was held hostage while I ran around the (baby names) world for the right name for my antagonist. It ended up a very strange hybrid of letters that I had to make up, but it was worth it. I can’t say her name without getting chills!

  • authorcrystalcollier

    I love it when characters just appear. So epic! Truthfully, mine are what they are. My subconscious forms combinations of people I’ve met or know in such a conglomerated mess that I can’t begin to tell you where they start. I love the story about your crazy character. I’ve got one of those–my ridiculously vengeful Bellezza–and I have no idea how this girl popped up in my head. She’s darn fun to write though.

    • krystal jane

      I love Bellezza. ^_^ It’s amazing what’s hiding in our subconscious, right? Plus I think that excitement really translates to the page! Yeah, when they just pop out of nowhere like that, it makes me even more excited about their stories. Discoveries!

  • Jodi

    I tried so hard to NOT make my MC “me.” I grew up in poverty so I made her middle-class, I grew up in the desert so I gave her trees, etc. I figured I didn’t want to spend 100K words writing about myself–that seemed like it would get tedious fast. But despite my best efforts,I keep finding all of these things about her that are so ME, and I’m wondering “How on earth did this happen?” Maybe because this was my first book, so incorporating what I know felt safe, I don’t know. But luckily her sisters (minor characters now, but major characters in future books) are nothing like me, and they are so much fun to explore. Especially Phee. She’s obnoxious and vain and I adore her! I’d say Taz (my MC) was “created” by me, combining elements of my own personality with “what if” situations. But characters like Phee are much like your characters–she demanded to be written.

    • krystal jane

      You definitely start experimenting more the more books you write. Once I started writing a male POV alongside my main POV, I got kind of stuck in it. I’m outright refusing to do that right now. It’s been a really nice change of pace, and it seems like my girls are rewarding me for it. 🙂

      I think it’s really common to write so much of yourself into your first book. Everything is new, there has to be something familiar, you know. Obnoxious and vain? I like Phee already. ^_^ And she has a great name! You’re going to have so much fun with the characters in your series.

  • Tonja Drecker (@TDrecker)

    Wow! They really did get you this time (those sneaky characters!) But it sounds awesome. 🙂
    My characters come from all over the place. From memories of people, other characters I’ve ran across in movies or books, but most just pop up *snap*! I love that the one was talking to you one morning. My characters haven’t done that yet. Lol!

    • krystal jane

      I have some awesome hooks in me right now, I think. 🙂 I love that pop up *snap*! I wish they all did that. Lol! It’s so crazy when one just starts talking to you out of nowhere. I’m not sure that’s ever happened before! The little monsters know how to get my attention though, that’s for sure. ^_^

  • sandiedocker

    Maybe your ‘normal’ character is speaking to you so loudly because you’ve been immersed in ‘special’ characters for so long. I love that writing is the only profession where hearing voices in our heads is totally normal. My characters come from voices in my head (Alice for sure), people watching is a great place to find characters (Grace from my as yet unwritten work), dreams….just about anyway. And that’s where the excitement is, right? We never know when a character is going to “speak” to us and demand our creative attention.

    • krystal jane

      It IS exciting! I never thought of that–that my normal character is exciting because she’s different from most of my MCs. Sometimes your brain just really wants to change things up on you. 🙂 I LOVE people watching!

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