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!