Developing Characters In My Novels

price_of_admissionOne of my daughters asked me once how I came up with the different characters I had in my books, and where I got their names? “Do you just look in the telephone book?” she asked.

Well, most of my characters are derived from the story itself. In other words, the plot creates the characters. There was one instance, however, that a character came from an encounter I had with an actual person. I was sitting in an airport terminal, waiting for my plane, when I saw this younger man walking by himself and talking out loud. He was good-looking and dressed nicely, but his actions surprised me. Then I figured out he was talking on his cell phone using a small wire mic with an earbud, the first I’d ever seen. I must mention that this was when cell phones were early in development. My cell phone at the time was permanently attached to my car. Anyway, I found this person interesting as I continued to discreetly watch him. He appeared to be doing business over the phone, and had a very assured attitude. For some reason, I locked his image away in my mind.

Eight years later, I was writing my first novel, The Price of Admission, and the plot required an aggressive, power hungry young executive that would play a major role in the story. Bingo, the image of the man came back to me and instantly I had my character, with all the assuredness and air of confidence this young man had projected during a simple cell phone call.

But hold on, what would this character’s name be? Remember, this would be a leading character and, therefore, needed a name that would fit his personality and role in the novel. I actually didn’t have to ponder too long, and contrary to my daughter’s suspicions, I didn’t go to the telephone book. His name came to mind the first time I started writing about him — Travis Manning. It sounded right to me and fit the personality I wanted him to have. By the way, my daughter also loved the name and thought it fit him perfectly.

To this day, I still enjoy recalling the times when I was writing scenes that included Travis Manning, and how he tried to control a much older, more seasoned executive character in the book named Brad Paxton.

FYI: Paxton won!

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