Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Character influence

“From SKB with love” part of the Holiday Brides Anthology, is set in the Caribbean island of St. Kitts affectionately known as SKB or Sugar City. It is a beautiful little island with 68 square miles of golden, grey, and even black sand beaches, beautiful mountain ranges neatly arranged in the center of the island, tropical rain forests, green sugar cane waving in the warm tropical breeze, exotic fruits, delicious cuisine, and friendly laid back people. But that country is more to me than just an exotic location. It is the country of my birth … the country where I was raised and came of age until I left in my early twenties.
So of course with writing that book came nostalgia… nostalgia for the food, the scenery, the laid back life style, the people. With nostalgia came something else: colorful characters from my past. It was only after editing that I realized how much the people that I grew up around influenced the characters of the local Kittitians in the book. Some were composites of different characters. Some were greatly influenced by relatives and others just reflected the generic “Kittitian” stereotype.

While editing I also spotted another issue. The story was told from the perspective of a visiting tourist who fell in love with a local. But here I was seeing everything through the eyes of a nostalgic Kittitian. It took a little prodding for me to distance myself from my nostalgia and see the country with fresh eyes, that of a person seeing it for the first time. It made me realize that writers, whether of fiction or non-fiction, real world or alternate universe, do not write in a vacuum. We are influenced by our past, our present and even our future dreams. We are influenced by the people we come in contact with daily.

Maybe the biggest influences on fiction writers are the people we came in contact with while still in our formative years. I recently saw a final jeopardy question about a woman author who “As a child, she liked to play witches & wizards with her friends Ian & Vikki Potter.” The answer of course was J.K. Rowling, author of the phenomenal Harry Potter series. It reminded me once again how people from our youths influence the characters in our novels.

In my novel "A Marriage of Convenience" that's being released this week, the herione finds herself an arranged marriage with a Ghanaian scientist, Kwabena Opoku. Kwabena's character is highly influenced by a Ghanaian student I met while visiting my husband (then my fiance) in college. That's because his ambition, his demeanor, his whole larger-than-life personality made an impact on me. I am certain if you authors examine the characters in your novels you would find at least one that even vaguely resembles somebody or is a composite of people from your past and present lives, especially if they've made an impact on you.


Farrah Rochon said...

Very, very true, Jewel. I think we all put pieces of people we've come in contact with in our books. Even if it's subconsciously.

Love the pictures!!!

Phyllis Bourne said...

I modeled character after a family member. Too me it was SOOOO OBVIOUS, but nobody realized it was her.

On the other hand, my mom (mistakenly) thinks every heroine I write is really her.

Gorgeous photos!

Liane Spicer said...

Congratulations on the release of A Marriage of Convenience, Jewel!

I do that character-snitching thing all the time, sometimes unconsciously. Case in point: a Dutch writer in my first novel. I didn't realize until after I'd written him that he was a lot like a Dutch student I'd met on a hike, oh, eons ago.

Phyllis, lol re you mom!

Jewel Amethyst said...

Those are photos of St. Kitts. Sometimes I wish I was still there (you are so lucky Liane).

Shauna Roberts said...

St. Kitts looks beautiful. Congratulations on your new release, Jewel!

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