One of the questions, as authors, we get asked a lot is how do we find our characters? Do they come from real people? Are we people watchers? Do we just make them up? Are there research books with characters to help develop yours? Do they come from the headlines?
The answer is simple … all of the above. I use a combination, as most writers do. I probably shouldn’t tell you, but sometimes I’ll use the name for a character of someone I really don’t care about who have similar traits. However, most of the time, it comes from someone I like.
In the first book of the Kasota Springs Contemporary Romance series, “The Troubled Texan”, I knew I wanted a strong lawman, with a heroic past. A friend of mine came to mind. In our bowling and coaching days, I knew his mother, father and sister. Although I’d only met him a few times, he was definitely one of those people you’d always want for a friend.
Billy Hobbs was from my hometown and graduated from the same high school as my husband and both of our daughters. He was a two-time All-American linebacker for the Texas A&M Aggies, and an NFL linebacker for six seasons. Cotton Bowl MVP, Panhandle Sports Hall of Famer and National Defense Player of the Year, only begins to name some of his honors. He was selected in the second-round draft by the Philadelphia Eagles and went on to become captain for New England and New Orleans Saints.
After his football career, of 25 years, he surrendered to full-time Christian ministry to preach, work with youth, do mission work in Africa, working with orphans and the many needed fellowships in prisons, even creating a vitamin supplement for the disadvantaged. He started the Mercy Foundation; and, where I knew him best, he ran the Faith City Mission here in Amarillo. His foundation and Faith City Mission are family shelters for those in need of a space to go whether it’s single moms and their children or families who need help getting back on their feet. After many years of doing such wonderful, selfless work, he was killed in a motorcycle-car accident in 2004 at the tender age of 57.
At his funeral one of his closest friends, said Billy applied what he had learned in football to his work in the ministry. “Hobbs took the same competitive spirit to help people.”
What a perfect model for my character, the Sheriff of Kasota Springs and his friend, who is also a deputy sheriff working with the Joint Task Force. They were raised in the same town and went to college together, but in my story it was at the University of Texas, not Texas A&M. Deuce went on to play for the Steelers, while Brody went into law enforcement, later encouraging Deuce to do the same.
Now you can see why I selected Billy, a real person who I admire greatly, as my role model for Deuce Cowan. Although, Deuce had to quit his football career due to an injury and became a defensive line coach, his true love, like Billy’s, was people. To help Deuce, law enforcement became his true love; particularly, since his father was a lawman.
Of interest, I took a headliner news story and used it as the reason Deuce’s love interest in the first book came to Kasota Springs to hide out in a small town; not knowing that her once BFF Deuce Cowan was sheriff.
Names sometimes come easy, other times very hard. For instance, one of my characters in both books came from a family in our anthology “Give Me a Cowboy”. Mesa LeDoux, who like most of my characters are founding family members from our anthologies, is a Johnson, my mother’s family name. Lola Ruth is her BFF. Ruth is my mama’s name and Lola is my mother-in-law. Clara at Pumpkin’s Café is named from my deceased sister, Clara, who was nicknamed Pumpkin. In “Out of a Texas Night”, I even use the first name of one of our P&P faithful readers. Now you’ll have to read the book to see if you can recognize who it is.
So now you have a little insight on how we come about in developing our characters, not just their name but their personalities and traits.
I’m working on the next book in the series, tentatively titled “Deep in a Texan’s Heart” and it’s Sylvie Dewey’s story. You might remember her Aunt from one of our anthologies, so she also comes from one of the founding families; and has a fantastic backstory. In this book, there’s a cooking club made up of retired teachers, and they are real educators I know who taught either my daughters, grandkids or are close friends, so get ready for some great first names only and fantastic holiday recipes in the back of the book. And, a teaser—the story is ripped from the headlines!
Have you ever had a career or hobby that changed you for the better?
To one reader who leaves a comment, I’ll send you an eBook of either “The Troubled Texan” or “Out of a Texas Night” from Amazon.