top of page
  • Writer's pictureTracey Lee

Where do they come from

This isn’t an existential question nor a biological one. Nor a practical one about why everyone goes to the supermarket at the same time. (I suspect it has something to do with the alignment of the planets!) This is all about characters. I think writers are asked this question when readers find themselves drawn or repelled, bewildered or enraged by characters in stories. Sometimes when they think they recognise something of themselves in a book the question arises.

Writers are mostly observers. There’s an awful lot of staring and wondering when we are unleashed into the community. It’s bad, not creepy, that writers tend to eavesdrop and spend a lot of time in supposition and contemplation about human motivation. We recall details from snippets of conversations and interactions, the good and the not so good. And then we store that information and reimagine it in our stories.

My characters are works of my imagination but there is a little reliance on traits I admire about people I know. Their strengths, rather than any possible weaknesses, are the elements I might borrow. I like people. In all their guises. Those who are calm in the face of catastrophe. Those who lean more to the hysterical in the same situation. The kind ones who are always seeking how to do someone a favour. The ones who mask their goodness with a helping of meanness. The whole and complete, the broken and searching, the discombobulated, the wild, mad, bewilderingly funny, the refined and the boganesque. All are fascinating.  

Therefore characters can be amalgams of the world around me. As seen through my eyes. Which ultimately means everything about me is in that interpretation. The things I find hilarious, intolerable, hurtful and delightful all contribute to my view of characters. So I usually ask a lot of questions when I meet people. I like to know where they going and how they got to where they are (metaphorically speaking-I’m somewhat directionally challenged so I don’t mean literally). I want to know why you are on your journey and what it feels like to be where you’re at. How do you see yourself? What would you like to be doing? What do you like about your people and place? What irks you? What brings you joy?

And not unlike my lovely Lily and Mick in the Lily O’Hara Mysteries I do like to conduct an interview. Some may say interrogation. Or inquisition. And to that end I’d like to write about some real people in my next series of blogs.

It would be very pleasing to have volunteers but I’m also willing to twist a few arms to help you step forward for a…let’s call it a discussion. I’m perfectly happy  for you to create an alias or identify by just a first name, or a number. The bold might want full name and title.  We can do it over coffee, the phone, Facetime, semaphore flags or go real old school and write a letter.

This is research for me. Your involvement would be much appreciated. I’ll even buy the coffee, possibly a cake! And then you can spend time reading my next book (books) to see if you can find yourself!

Characters are not created by writers. They pre-exist and have to be found. 

                                                                       Elizabeth Bowen                      

Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.                                              

Ray Bradbury


14 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page