Sunday, February 20, 2011

Creating Characters

Networking with other authors sometimes gives me pause. Some of them use mannerisms from friends and relatives for their fictional characters, some based their characters directly on people they know. I must be odd in that respect - all of the fictional characters in my novels are just that, fictional.

One of the characters in my ancient Egyptian series, I will admit, I have based on someone I know, but only his physical characteristics. He works out, making him the perfect fit and trim Egyptian male, has his head shaved, and has the swagger of a king's son. Perfect for the evil son of Ramesses III.

But, to say he is the character is completely untrue. My friend is a thoughtful man and not prone to jealousy, violence, or retribution, the motivations which are so ingrained in my fictional villain. My characters sprang from many outlining sessions and research into New Kingdom Egypt. I wanted to be faithful to how the people lived, their occupations, their mannerisms and speech patterns, and the passion they had for each other and their beloved land.

Our society and culture is too geared toward gadgets and technology for me to base any of my characters on people I know. It would be far too difficult for me to take a personal friend and try to imagine how he/she would have survived as an Egyptian farmer, a Kushite Medjay, or son of the greatest ruler on earth.

Rather, I have consumed book after book about the daily life of the ancient cultures, to get a real perspective on them. So, when I write a character I can imagine what his life was like, the struggles he faced, the foods he ate, how he interacted with others. And, the more I have learned about them, the more I wish I had lived then. A much simpler life, harsher indeed, but certainly more in tune with nature and the world around them.

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