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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Life Imitating Art Imitating Everything Else

I know I’m a bit late in the game, but I thought I’d put it out there anyway. YA Highway had a post last week about real life people who inspire characters in books. I thought I’d go and add my two cents.
My recent book, even though it’s paranormal, carries a great deal of truth to it. The town is real and the characters are intricate cluster of friends and relatives. The setting takes place in a book store, a locale that I’m quite familiar with. The main character in my story, Samara, is based off of three different people in my life, but her sense of humor is mine.

Samara’s multi-cultural background was inspired by one of my closest friends since high school, who is also biracial. I’ve watched her and her siblings go through all kinds of identity crisis along the way. One acts “black”, one acts “white”, and the other is somewhere in between, yet they all embrace both sides of their heritage. There is an internal struggle that I’ve experienced myself as someone who doesn’t behave like the stereotypical black chick. Samara reflects that duality in so many ways.
Why did I do this? Well, any writing teacher will tell you to write what you know, so naturally I drew from reality for inspiration. It tends to enrich the story with accurate details and character quirks. The trick is not to make it too obvious; although, those who read it will know. I see it as an inside joke that only a few will get and a love letter to those who have touched my life.

It also helps that I’m a writer with multiple personalities: a dark side, a badass side, a neurotic side, a shy side, etc. It’s a good way to delve into one’s psyche without the pricy therapy sessions.

They say “One good lie is sandwiched between two truths,” and that sums up what is needed to convince the reader that anything you put on paper has validity. Research and fact-checking are a big help, but you need to invest more energy developing your characters. If the reader doesn’t believe these characters exist, your done. So there is no harm in taking from real life, because after all, that’s what you’re trying to emulate.

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