From Hero to Character

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.

Phyliss
A native Texan, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Phyliss Miranda still believes in the Code of the Old West and loves to share her love for antiques, the lost art of quilting, and the Wild West.

Visit her at phylissmiranda.com
Updated: April 1, 2019 — 3:15 pm

27 Comments

  1. Hello Mrs Phyliss not entering as I have both these books but I worked at a State Mental Hospital until I retired and my best and favorite years there was when I work the adolescent unit. A large majority of the patients in that unit just wanted to feel loved and know they meant something to someone and let me tell you I tried to show and tell them every day they were special and that God and I loved them. While most everyone else was going strictly by the book and never sharing God’s love. It would thrill my heart when that extra kindness would pay off especially when there was 2-3 that would get to acting out and no one could get them calm down and they would send for me to come talk the patient down. I would get ask why will she or he listen to you and not us and I just told them the truth a little love and kindness went a long way now granted some no matter what kindness you showed you couldn’t reach but for those few that did the joy they brought to my life was well worth the long talks and money spent from my own pocket to buy something as simple as a soda and candy bar for the smile I would sometimes get on a rather sad young face. I always treated my patients no matter what age or how difficult they they could be like I would have wanted someone to treat a love one of mine. I have always loved to see how big a smile I could give to others and in doing so My own heart couldn’t help but to be joyful . I am here to tell you that I was forever touched from working with the Mentally ill.
    Have a Blessed Day Mrs Phyliss and I am looking forward to your next Kasota Springs book

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      A very difficult but rewarding career. Loved reading this testimony sweet lady!

    2. Oh Glenda, you brought tears to my eyes. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your love and caring in the hospital which no doubt spilled over into your wonderful, productive life. My sister Clara had mental issues, so I can relate to going into the Pavilion and seeing others that just needed love and care. Sometimes, as you said, a gentle word, a touch or just listening can make all of the difference in the world. No doubt there are many productive former patients who made a life for themselves because of the difference you made in their life. Bless you so much for your love and caring. I hope you enjoy the next book, as much as I’m enjoying writing Sylvie’s story. Did you figure out which P&P follower is in the last book? Keep it a secret…I might have to run a contest! Again, thank you for sharing and I pray you have a wonderful Blessed Day yourself. Much love, Phyliss

  2. Good morning Phyliss I loved your blog. I’m a Texas A & M gal, my husband is a Texas Longhorn guy, so our Home is divided, but we used to have some fun bets when they played each other.
    My 20 years working in the pig industry changed me. I basically was a veterinarian without the degree. Taking care of thousand and thousand of piggies truly became a rewarding career. I love animals and when I would treat one for an illness and see it get better and grow was a rewarding feat.
    I loved both of these books and have them, but whoever wins your book is in for s huge treat.
    Hum?? I wonder who our P & P faithful reader could be? ??
    I can’t wait until your next book.
    I loved learning how you come up with the names, so cool seeing the insight of an author’s way if naming her characters. Billy Hobbs was an Main gentleman, thanks for sharing his story.
    Live you my dear sweet friend.

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      Every time you talk about your pigs I think about a set of pigs we had born in the middle of a rare snowstorm we had in Stephenville when we lived on the Hico highway. The piglets were not breathing so my sister Tammy and I huffed air into their snouts to save them. I took the runt into the house with me and nursed and fed it all night long. I couldn’t believe that we actually had to go to school the next day and I was pissed that my mom wouldn’t let me stay home to take care of the piglet. When I got home from school the piglet had died and I was so mad at my mom.

      1. Oh Stephanie how sad, but more than likely that piglet wasn’t going to make it, so don’t blame your mom. I know how devasting that must have been for you.

      2. Stephanie, thank you for sharing. Your story really touched my heart, but I know as you got older you realized that your mama was taking on her responsibilities of caring for you and Tammy. It definitely wasn’t your fault and I admire you for helping the little piglets. That’s so precious and a fantastic show of caring and love. Thanks for your compliment on my books. I hope you’ll really enjoy Sylvie’s story. She’s been in the other books and I’ve tried to pave the way for her own story with drops of hints here and there. Stephanie, take care of yourself and you’re a precious lady. Big hugs, Phyliss

    2. Hi Tonya, so good you stopped by. Thank you for the nice compliments on the book. So you think you’ve figured out who the faithful P&P reader in my last book is? We’ll see … since she’ll be in the next one, but my lips are sealed. Oh, I can only imagine the reverie in your household. Even folks who didn’t go to A&M or UT battle over which is the better school especially when it comes to sports! How much fun. I can see where your career in veterinarian medicine was so rewarding. I love animals and my MIL was a nurse, plus I have two grands in the medical field and can really see the good in people working with the misfortunate. I can also visualize how rewarding it is. I know my granddaughter who is an RT and does incubations feels so good when she helps to save a life. It’s not always sunshine and roses, but for those who she saves it is. What great work you did. Thank you. And, yes, Billy was one heck of a guy. His parents and sister were too. Have a great day, my precious friend. Love, P

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    I would love to read The Troubled Texan. I loved Out of a Texas Night! Great blog!

    1. Hi, an add on. You’re in the drawing for sure. I want you to read “The Troubled Texan”. I think you’ll enjoy it.

  4. I can’t say I had a career or hobby that changed my life, but I had a really good boss at my last job who made me see the best in people. He had strong christian values and helped at a homeless shelter. Some of the guys who worked in the production department had come from the homeless shelter and had gotten their lives back on track.

    1. Hi Janine. Thanks for sharing your story. There’s nobody better than a good Christian boss, who shows by doing. Your old boss seems to have some of the same values as Billy; being there for those in need and helping them get back on their feet. What a wonderful story. I appreciate you so much for sharing. Hugs, Phyliss

  5. Great post, Phyllis. This Sunday, I’ll be at A&M participating in a March of Remembrance.

    I’ve not had a career or hobby that changes my life. The Lord has placed amazing people in my life who make me want to be a better representation of Him.

    1. Hi Caryl. Good to hear from you. I love Texas A&M and our university (where my husband and one daughter graduated from), which began as a teacher’s college years and years ago, is a part of the A&M system. I’m totally with you on how the Good Lord places people in our lives who make s a better person for Him. It’s not always a job or social group that makes a difference, so many times it’s people. Thanks for sharing. Hugs, P

  6. Careers do change people. I was a teacher and loved my job. I also ran a robotics team. I had every misfit you could imagine and I gave them a chance to shine and boy did they.

    1. Hi Debra. Good to see you here. I came from a long line of teachers and that’s what I would have done if I could have afforded to go to college beyond our local junior college. I thank you and honor you for your service in teaching. Robotics team! How interesting. I saw that in our newspaper (yes I’m one of the old folks that still likes a newspaper in my hand)…the competition and they ran a story on how they make their own robots now. So interesting. Thanks for sharing; and again, thank you for being a teacher. Big hugs, P

  7. I can’t say I have had a career that changed me but I think they can. I really enjoyed your post.

    1. Hi Quilt Lady. Glad to hear from you. I’m pleased you liked my blog. I enjoyed sharing the creative side of writing, but more than anything, I loved telling Billy’s story. He was one fabulous man who is smiling down on all of us. Have a great day. Hugs, Phyliss

  8. Welcome Phyliss. This is a good post. Thanks for sharing. I find it interesting where we all get our inspiration from. Because we are all so different, different things spark different interests. This is so cool. I get a lot of my inspiration from nature with my quilts and making cards.

    1. Hi Lori, so good to hear from you. I totally agree that we don’t know where some of our inspiration comes from…even when it’s hitting us on the noggin! I couldn’t agree more than quilting creates so much inspiration. I didn’t know you made cards, but of course, did know about quilting. BTW when my youngest granddaughter comes this summer, I’m going to teach her to make a lap quilt. I’m so excited. Thanks for sharing. A big Texas hugs, Phyliss

  9. I don’t know if it changed me for the better, but it did allow me to be a full-time mom and that was a wonderful thing for me. I was a medical transcriptionist and a single mom for 25 years and, when my daughter was six months old, I was allowed to start working from home and got to provide for her financially and be able to be with her every day too.

    1. Linda, good to hear from you. What a heartwarming story. One never knows where the future will lead us. I quit a very high paying job when our girls were young because I’d be in the court room at 2 or 3 in the morning and then back in the office by 7. We thought we’d rather do without a little bit, so we could continue coaching T-ball, being a Girl Scout leader, etc. and I’ve never regretted it in the least. Thanks for sharing your story. Big hugs.

  10. As a Tarleton State University graduate (as is Cousin Tonya Lucas, and she knows about piggies, too), I say I am from the ‘Better Part’ of the A & M System. Either of your books would be great to get. I would buy the other one anyway.

  11. Hi Jerri, good to hear from you. Tarleton State … yeah! Another great A&M school. I didn’t realize you’re Tonya’s cousin. I know Tonya is a great supporter of not just me as an author but other Fillies. Your name is in the hat for the drawing, as is everyone else. I think you’ll enjoy either of the books and hopefully since I’ve given everyone a background on how I can up with my heroes, it’ll make the reading more real. I hope you and yours have a wonderful evening. Hugs, Phyliss

  12. Hi Phyliss,
    I just wanted to say your granddaughter looked absolutely beautiful! I can see why you are so proud of her. It’s wonderful that you could be such an integral part of her wedding even though it sounds like a lot of work. I am sure she will always remember how much love and effort was made for her. I hope she and her new husband have a blessed life together.

  13. sometimes, it’s not the actual job, but the skills learned at the job which can give you abilities to do other things.

  14. What a wonderful way to remember and honor your friend, Billy Hobbs. For those you don’t care for, using their names as names for your villains is kind of a fun way to vent and poke at them.
    I was a Peace Corps Volunteer for 3 years. It was a wonderful experience. I learned so much and would not want to have missed it for anything. My jobs have been for non-profits and I have spent the time not employed volunteering for a great many agencies. It is a great way to live a life.

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