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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

RTW: When Real Lifers Show Up on the Page

Road Trip Wednesday is a blog carnival, where YA Highway’s contributors and readers post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s take on the topic.

This week, Road Trip Wednesday the prompt was: Who (from real life) have you written into a book?

Truthfully, I never write a full (real life) person into a book. Well, okay. There was this one time I wanted to write about a friend whose parents were killed by a dark lord (sorry, I can’t tell you his name). Only my friend could defeat said dark lord, so there were high stakes. And since he was basically clueless when this happened there was a ton of built-in conflict.

But someone told my friend’s story before I had a chance. 

Aside from that brilliant idea that never was, I don’t usually add real-life friends or family into my books. (That hasn’t stopped The Man from asking, “Is this me?” and “What about this?” every time he reads my manuscript.)

Instead, I steal Real Lifers’ mannerisms. It’s kind of like going to a character trait buffet: I’ll take rapid blinking from her and that annoying sound the tongue makes when it suctions to the roof of the mouth from him. Even then, I use their mannerisms sparingly.

Real Lifers mostly help me think about each character as a fully fleshed-out person. I know how my father will act in group situations (shy) with close friends (chatty) or while waiting in line (impatient). I know for a fact that he’d leave a deli before waiting 30 minutes for a sandwich. My mother? She’d chat up the guy behind the counter until both had lost track of time. When a character’s looking a bit one dimensional, I consider how a bunch of Real Lifers might act, which usually helps me delve deeper into the character.

So, yeah, Real Lifers remind us that a character’s personality should affect how they act and react to everything.

I will add, though, that friends and family are more likely to assume they’re in a manuscript more often than they are. They also assume I’m my main character when I’m not.

Which is why The Man started touching the small of my back after reading my characters’ first kiss. Yes, the totally hot love interest put his hand on the main character’s lower back. No, that does not mean all interactions with me should start there.

What about you? Do you write Real Lifers into your books?

Also! If you want to win a copy of the awesome Across the Universe, enter here. (You’ll also find info on how to win more than 20 other prizes. So, you know, check it out.)

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