Is the Main Character You?

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, my first novel will be out in July, 2014. It’s called Secrets of Hallstead House and the main character’s name is Macy Stoddard. Once in a while someone will ask me if Macy, or any of the other characters, is based on a real person. The short answer is no.

But it’s more complicated than that. There are parts of Macy that resemble me and parts of her that are my opposite. For example, she has brown hair. I have brown hair as long as I’ve been to the hairdresser recently. She is a caregiver, like me. I’m not a nurse, but taking care of people is what I love to do. Macy discovers a love of the Saint Lawrence River. I loved the River practically from birth. On the other hand, Macy can’t swim. I love to swim, and I’ve passed that love along to all of my kids. She hates boats; I love boats. She’s brave, whereas I probably would have left the island at the first sign of danger.

That’s one of the many fun things about writing fiction. A writer gets to make each person exactly the way she wants. Not a perfect person, but one that’s perfect for her purposes. A writer can imagine what a person looks like, and POOF, that’s the way the person looks. If a writer needs a bad guy, she doesn’t have to go looking for one. She makes him up. Need an interesting place to hide a body? Just give a writer a sec…she’ll come up with something.

There are lots of great places to come up with story ideas, too, not just characters. Sometimes ideas come from the headlines. Sometimes from a tiny blurb in a newspaper. Sometimes from an obituary. Ideas can come from going on vacation and passing an abandoned house and asking yourself, “What if…?” Ideas can come from dreams. Or nightmares. Or an overheard conversation. It’s fun to make stuff up. As a fiction writer, I take the world as it is and add people and problems from my imagination. I think fantasy writers must have a tough job. They not only have to make up their people and their stories, but they have to make up the whole world, too. Now that requires imagination.

But here’s something else that’s fun: I may have a picture in my mind of what my main character looks like, but if that’s different from the picture in the reader’s mind, that’s okay. All I need as the writer is my picture. The same goes for the setting. I may have a very specific idea of what a place looks like, but it’s totally fine if the reader has a different picture. That’s what makes books so much better than movies, but that’s a post for a different day.

I’d love to hear about some of your favorite fictional characters. I’ll start. I’ve had lots of favorites, but at the moment, my favorite fictional character is Hamish Macbeth. He’s the main character in a series of books by M.C. Beaton. He’s a police constable, tall and lanky with bright red hair. And I love to picture the area of Scotland where he patrols. Anyone else read these books?

Until next week,

Amy