Friday, January 04, 2013


When I asked one of the guests on this blog if she used real people in her novels, she replied, “Of course. Everyone does.” I immediately bristled and thought, “Humph, not me.” But the statement started me thinking about my own writing. What I realized is that I do not use real people as the main characters in my books or their situations as plots. Occasionally, though, I do model a secondary character after a person I’ve known or about whom I’ve read. How embarrassing to admit that after my initial reaction to her statement. Picture me blushing.

Here are some examples:

In my western historical novels  THE MOST UNSUITABLE WIFE and THE MOST UNSUITABLE HUSBAND, Burris and Willard are sort of modeled after Don Knotts and Tim Conway in “The Apple Dumpling Gang” movie. I loved that movie! Bumbling brothers who are really not so bad, but who need constant guidance, are exactly what I needed for this story. They made me laugh. You may think it’s odd for a writer to enjoy her own characters, but why else would I write? Oh, yeah, to quiet the voices. ☺

In OUT OF THE BLUE, a contemporary romantic suspense time travel, the hero’s mom is a compasionate sort of retro-hippie who wears rose-colored glasses in spite of the difficult life she’s led--an opposite to her level-headed police detective son. I named the mom Blossom because a person of that name saved Darling Daughter 2’s life. DD2 had been to her doctor because of a suspicious sore on her nipple that would not heal. After consultation and a mammogram, the doctor she consulted pooh-poohed her concern and told her to wait six months and see if it grew or went away. Immediately after that, DD2 learned the grandfather who had raised her friend Blossom had died, and she attended the funeral. She had sort of lost touch with Blossom and hadn’t seen or heard from her in months and months. At the funeral, Blossom wore a turban to cover her loss of hair from chemotherapy. Long story short, Blossom had the same type breast cancer as DD2 and sent my daughter to the breast surgeon she’d consulted. As a result, DD2 learned that she had an aggressive, rapidly growing type of Paget’s cancer that would have entered her chest wall before six months. So, I thought Blossom at least deserved a character named after her. Don’t you agree? And I gave Blossom a good doctor in love with her.

Blossom Hunter and her beau, Dr. Dave Roan

In BRAZOS BRIDE and HIGH STAKES BRIDE, the first two books of the western historical Men of Stone Mountain trilogy, the aunts Maggie Jo Gamble and Lizzie Mae Fraser are named after my mom and her sister, Elizabeth. Even though she was generous to her immediate family, my mom, like Maggie, was not lavish with her praise. We joked that her glass was not only half-empty, but it had a crack down the side and a chip on the rim. ☺ In contrast, my Aunt Elizabeth never said anything negative around me. Ever. She had a sad life, but she never let her private life destroy her demeanor. There were times, of course, when each was unhappy at what life had delivered. My dad was blind the last fifteen years of his life, and my housewife mom had to become the breadwinner. With no education or work history, she felt fortunate to obtain a job clerking at Sear's for the next 22 years. My aunt’s husband was, to quote my mom, “Not worth the bullet it would take to shoot him." My farm wife aunt had to get a job in town when my uncle went bust farming from his nefarious rambling. But together around me, the two women were laughing and happy. Each would have done anything for her family, just like Maggie and Lizzie would do for the Stone brothers.

Maggie and Lizzie from iStock rather than life
In addition to these five characters, my plots and characters are a result of the sum of ALL my life experiences and everything I’ve read or heard. Isn’t that true of all of us? We store away these experiences in a cache somewhere in our subconscious. They affect our actions and opinions forever.A minister friend from a moderate denomination once told me that he thought he'd put his childhood's restrictive teachings behind him. But when he least expected it, there came one of those teachings creeping forward in his mind. For writers, they rise forth as characters who talk to us until we write them down. How that differs from mental illness, I can’t say. Maybe it doesn’t. ☺ Except writers don’t actually kill people, we just let our characters kill other characters. Legal and much more satisfying for all, right?

Thanks for stopping by!


katsrus said...

Loved hearing about some of the characters in your books and seeing the pictures of how you see them. I loved Blossom in Out of the Blue.
Sue B

Teresa said...

I loved the Apple Dumpling Gang as a kid! (Okay, I love it now, too!)

Teresa said...
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