There is no small number of experts writing books, posts, and tips to help you as a writer. A quick search on Amazon produces a plethora of books to assist with character reactions, emotions, self-editing, replacing weak verbs, and more. Oh, and building great characters for your novels. (I do hope you enjoyed the play on words in this post’s title.)
When it comes to writing novels, I’m not an expert in much. But I am an expert in is what I have done in my own fiction writing. I won’t presume that my way is the right way and you’re free to presume it’s wrong, but this is what worked for me. Maybe what works for me will work for you, too.
This posit is an introduction to my novel’s characters. But instead of telling you about the character as they are in the novel, I’m going to share my inspiration for each of them. In most cases, my characters were based on either specific actors or characters from movies and TV shows. These were my starting points for each character, but they often took on a life of their own.
So let’s meet the people who influenced my people.
Camden Hill aka “LT”
Of all the characters in my novel, Camden is the one that is the least based on another person or character. Since Camden is my MC, I was looking for almost a blank canvas to work from. Tom Hardy provided me with a good representation of Camden’s physical appearance. I wanted my character to feel well-worn. Though he has a great job and can present himself as strong and confident, inside he’s pretty beat up. Tom Hardy has that look. Even many of the characters he’s played have that same type of feel.
Walter Mayze aka “Cleaner”
Actor Jonathan Banks played Mike Ehrmantraut in Breaking Bad. This is who immediately came to mind as my character Walter Mayze who is the head of security for the secret lab, the primary setting of my novel. Walter is experienced in keeping secrets and taking care of security problems as they arise. He’s calm, collected, and doesn’t take any crap. Overall, he’s largely disinterested in the science that goes on around him except for when it involves the team’s security and keeping their secrets.
Brook Newark aka “Brooklyn”
Ali Maki’s character Jess on the show Wrecked provided the inspiration for Brooklyn, both in appearance and personality. I loved the smart-alecky, trash-talking characters, and wanted someone that punches well above her weight. Jess was just that person. Brooklyn is a character that doesn’t let an opportunity pass without taking a jab at someone. She was a tough character to write because some of her “humor” can come across as very groan-inducing, but I have heard she is a favorite with some who have read my story.
Christian Rhodes aka “GoPro”
GoPro is one of the few characters whose given name is never mentioned in my book. Just a fun fact there for you. He was firmly based on Donald Glover’s Troy Barnes from the show Community, the single best/worst comedy to ever air. (Stick to the first three seasons and ignore the rest.) Troy was the emotional center of Community. Or you might say, the overly-emotional center. I loved his character and it was just that fun-loving, hyper-aware character that I was looking for.
For the character of Allyson, I was looking for a serious, no-nonsense, “executive” type that could also be playful when required. I also wanted someone of mixed heritage and Allison Blake from the sci-fi TV show Eureka came to mind. Allison is strong without being hard. Experienced but also knows her limitations. The perfect model for my “Allyson.”
Lucas Bowman aka Greaser
For Greaser, I was looking for a character that was experienced yet set in his ways. He’s the master of his field and his work is all he has. Forest Whitaker gave me the inspiration I needed for this character. Solid, steady, and non-fluffable. Doesn’t care about making nice, but not the typical A-hole characters you often see either.
For the character of Camden’s mother, I wanted someone who represented a soft, mild-mannered woman who, deep down, has had all the life drained out of her. Kathy Bates is a great actress with a lot of dynamic range. In my mind, she was able to fit this role in terms of how the character is portrayed as well as her physical appearance.
I don’t think there was ever a second in which I did not have Juliet from Lost in mind when I wrote Rose Bellinger. She is a very strong, but quiet character. She never gets ruffled and rarely raises her voice. There’s never a time when Rose has to pull rank because everyone knows, she has it.
Eli Grant aka Darwin
I loved Trace’s character in Mom’s Night Out and used him as the base for my character Darwin. Though he’s a scientist in my novel, Darwin is described as a tattooed biker. Both characters are mild-mannered and world-wise. Other than occupation, the primary difference is that Darwin is black.
I have no picture for KJ because she was based largely on someone I know in real life. Military-type, no-nonsense, but at the same time, all-girl. Just not a girl you want to mess with.
No list of characters would be complete without the base of operations for my characters. My lab/community was based in no small part on the sci-fi TV show Eureka both in tone and setting (though my “town” is an abandoned movie studio). Eureka is a major influence in my book. You might even notice Salli Richardson-Whitfield in the image above. It’s a fun present-day/futuristic show that I just love. I wanted to have a similar tone for mine, though I do go a bit darker at times.
When writing my novel I found that using these character bases was extremely helpful for keeping my characters “in character”. The images above are all the same images I have printed out with each character’s bio. I reference them frequently. But when in doubt about how my characters would act or react in a situation, I had an easy cheat. I’d just ask myself, “what would so-and-so do?” And while each of my characters is different from those above, these characterizations kept me grounded in a way I wouldn’t have been otherwise.
What about you? Who are your characters based on?