Writing

Finding Influences in the People Around You

Hello, readers and writers!

This week’s post will focus on the aspect of searching for inspiration in the relationships we hold. Every character springs from a combination of everything the author knows about that “type” of person. They draw connections between the character’s past and how that can translate into their actions, wants, and overall story. The best way to make characters authentic is to think as they would think, and that involves observations and conclusions about the people who have influenced the character.

No, writers aren’t writing specifically about you. They might use your likeness for a character or take certain pieces from your viewpoints on life, but think of it as a compliment. For a writer, it’s essential to learn how people think and why they do the things they do. The motive is one of the most crucial parts of any character, so understanding the lives of others makes a considerable impact.

Three types of influences:

Below I’ll explain three different levels of knowing a person and how they could/do influence your work. Figuring out where your connections come from and being able to apply that knowledge to future writing can create a stronger bond between the reader and the characters of your story.

Public

Public influences include all types of public figures. A writer might gain inspiration from a politician, actor, musician, etc. when planning a character. As an entertainment-centered society, we are always looking to mass media for ways to inspire us. We develop bonds with these public figures as we grow to trust or distrust them over time. We know their stories, and we love learning as much as we can.

How can that translate into writing?

One astonishing thing about public figures is that almost all of their history and information is researchable. If a writer chose a famous painter as the inspiration for a character in their novel, they would be able to research the life that painter has lived. A good writer wouldn’t copy and paste that history onto a character, but they might use it as an influence on their writing, attempting to capture the authenticity of that person.

This practice could be used in a general sense as well. A writer might want to create a character who is a distinguished surgeon. They would then Google surgeons who are renowned and learn a little more about their profession. This knowledge adds depth to the story that many readers genuinely appreciate.

Private

Private influences will be people in your personal life. Sure, many people do make their private lives public, but that doesn’t stop those relationships from being categorized as private anyway. Whoever you choose to spend your time with outside of work or school is part of your private life.

What can we draw from private relationships?

The influence a private relationship has on a writer is more significant than a public one could ever be. Or, at least, that’s my assumption from the best of my knowledge. I know people feel intense emotions for their family members, friends, mentors, coworkers, etc. These are people who you interact with in your daily life, and it is much easier to draw inspiration from the way they think because you know them at that level.

Some writers might fear taking inspiration from their private relationships, but I’m not suggesting you create a horrible, evil character and then base them on the worst qualities of your significant other. I’m suggesting you listen, truly listen, to the people with who you spend most of your time. They are sure to have interesting comments and theories about the world around them. It’s important to understand someone before you can truly know them, and that translates as well to good characters.

Fictional

Yes, fiction characters can be people too! Most people have a significant reaction when a favorite character of theirs dies. They will even have a strong response when a character they hated dies. The actions and situations can always be rearranged, but strong characters stay in people’s hearts.

Why does this fit with the other types?

Drawing inspiration from a fictional character makes total sense for writers. There’s less at stake when choosing someone fictional as no one will have to know. You could answer the question with, “Voldemort,” instead of revealing a lot of that inspiration came from your coworker.

Also, writers know from experience that a character similar to theirs has made an impact on people’s lives. Basing qualities of a character in your work will bring a new level of intimacy for the reader as they will begin to enjoy the character the same way you do. Don’t just copy a writer’s style completely. Let the influence and inspiration you’ve gained from them flow.


Thank you so much for reading!

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