suzanne mcleod (suzannemcleod) wrote,
suzanne mcleod

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Friends as Characters: or will they still love you when the book is published?

Friends as Characters: what a nail-biting and horrifying fantastic idea this can be.

First where do characters come from? It’s one of those questions that writers are often asked. My own characters arrive from various places: some stroll onto the page fully-formed complete with name*, description and dialogue; others start out as bit parts or walk-ons and then suddenly demand a life of their own and a much bigger slice of the wordage; and a few take a bit of investigating before they start to form in my head.

Genny Taylor – the main character in my books – was one who took a bit of hair pulling and banging of head on desk investigating. Although I knew a lot about her before I started to write, it took me a while before I found both her and her voice. In fact it took a whole short story**; one that takes place ten years before the events in The Sweet Scent of Blood at a very traumatic time for Genny. Seeing how she reacted from another character’s point of view really helped nail Genny as a person for me.

But there are other ways to find characters for your books! [cue dramatic organ music]

One thing I’d never thought I’d do was base characters on anyone I know [winces at possible litigation and rotten tomatoes], or anyone famous, except then my arm was twisted after a chat I changed my mind. The conversation went something like this . . .

Fiona: [best writing buddy] You know I really don’t like vampires, I just can’t see what the attraction is [shudders]
Suzanne: [wondering where this conversation is going and how anyone cannot love vampires] Uh-huh.
Fiona: Although there are exceptions I s’pose, I mean Pierce Brosnan*** would make a great vamp, don’t you think?
Suzanne: [cool, hot-looking in that sophisticated older guy way and with that Bond charisma thing going on] Sure.
Fiona: Good! I’m glad that’s settled, you can make him a vampire in your book and then I can be his girlfriend.
Suzanne: [reels in shock] but you just said you don’t like vampires.
Fiona: I do if they’re Pierce Brosnan and I get to be his girlfriend.
Suzanne: You really want to be a character in my book who dates a vampire?
Fiona: [Looks determined] Of course, but only if it’s PB.
Suzanne: Oh! [Sees the end of a beautiful friendship happening.] What if you don’t like you in the book?
Fiona: He’s PB! What’s not to like. [hands over a brochure] Now here’s the dress I have to wear, it’s a Chanel.

Oh and these are the shoes [flips page briskly] they’re Christian Louboutin.

Rubies added via fictional license
And PB should have that casual look going on; you know where he’s on the beach in that film – The Thomas Crown Affair – dark tousled hair, linen shirt, jeans … [stares dreamily into distance]
Suzanne: [starts mulling over the possibilities, rubs hands] Okay, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Some time later . . .

Spouse reading book: [wry tone] I see Fiona got herself in the book then.

Writing group: [collectively hold hands up and gasp in horror] Fiona does what!!??!!

Fiona: Brilliant - all my chums at work are waiting for your book now - they have heard that I'm in it and get practically strangled by a ruby necklace. Makes you realize who your friends are *G*

And here’s where Genny first meets Fiona in The Sweet Scent of Blood . . .

‘Not at all, Ms Taylor. I can assure you that all of our customers are very satisfied.’

I swivelled towards the woman’s voice and saw luminous grey eyes, short white-blonde hair and salon-perfect makeup.

‘I am Fiona, the proprietor of Tir na n’Og.’ Her dress was spectacular, form-fitting black silk with what looked like very expensive ruby and diamond catches holding it together. There were more rubies sewn onto her elbow-length evening gloves.

...I followed Fiona up the stairs, or rather, followed her shoes: red suede courts with four-inch heels, studded with more rubies. The ruby extravaganza made my spine crawl. Fiona had hit my radar as human, so why was she blinged up like a witch or a goblin queen?


More recent conversation . . .

Fiona: [discussing The Cold Kiss of Death] umm . . . Fiona doesn’t get much of a mention does she? [steely look] I hope you’re going to give her more page time in book 3?
Suzanne: [looks shifty] umm . . . I’m not sure what’s happening with Fiona in book 3—
Fiona: [points an accusing finger] you’re not going to kill her off are you? You can’t! I won’t let you!
Suzanne: [mentally resurrects Fiona] ooh, alright then . . . maybe I’ll kill PB instead [evil grin].
Fiona: [narrows eyes] you are *not* killing PB either! End of! Oh, and I've found a picture of Fiona's ruby ring, there's such a romantic story about it [sighs]

The Worlds largest and most exquisitely faceted ruby, A 23.1 carat gem, is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution's National Gem and Mineral collection in Washington, D.C.


The dazzling diamond and ruby ring was a gift from Peter Buck, founder of the Subway Sandwich chain in honor of his late wife.


FYI: Part of this blog post was posted over at Karen Mahoney’s LJ where she was kind enough to have me as her guest on the 4th Sept 2008. Karen is brilliant new writer [of Urban Fantasy :- )] and her story Falling to Ash is published in The Eternal Kiss anthology – you can read the first six pages through Amazon’s ‘look inside’ feature here.

*Trivia! Walk on characters’ names are something I have an issue with; in the first draft of my book, I ended up with three characters all called Peter, and because they were such different people in my mind, I never noticed until after I’d written them in. Trouble is I still think of all three of them as Peter! So now a lot of my secondary characters start out as XXX until I can think of suitable [and different] names for them. *g*

**Currently undergoing a re-vamp :- )

***Profuse apologies to PB – it wasn’t my idea, but you really do make a fantastic vamp!
Tags: writing

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