Sunday, June 18, 2006

Secret Identities (WW? #20)

This week’s Writer’s Weekly Question gives me a chance to revisit my childhood.

Writer's Weekly Question # 20:
Have you ever created a character based on someone you know? Was it because you liked the person, or disliked the person? How was the character different or like the person you based him or her on?

My answer to this one is a definite “Yes.” In fact, some of the earliest characters I ever created were based on people I knew in middle school. I’ve made mention in a previous WW? that I used to create superhero characters and that I originally wanted to be a comic book writer. One of the oldest groups I created were called “The Demon Riders.” I had this thing plotted out for more than a hundred issues, not that I ever wrote one, but I also created drawings and profiles of the characters.

In the early days, I used the actual names of the people. Upping the challenge, I’d even go so far as to mimic the hairstyle of these people based on yearbook pictures. What’s humorous is to realize that I never borrowed someone to create a villain. When I did use someone’s name and persona, I meant it as a compliment, that I thought they had something within them that could be heroic. Most of them never knew I did this. A few did, most of whom were among my closest friends. Far as I know, only one person ever found out after the fact, and blessedly, she didn’t think I was some kind of stalker freak (I’d previously asked her out, got the “just friends” turndown, awkward teen angst followed... Years later, we ended up getting married to different people a week apart... Weiiiiiiiird).

These drawings come from my last crop of superhero drawings back in high school. The names have been blurred out, because there’s no way for me to know how these people would respond should they recognize themselves, no matter how unlikely it is they’ll see this blog entry. That said, I can name at least one of them. My best friend growing up, and the best man when I got married is Stephen Long. He lived on the street behind me back in middle school. Stephen’s inspired quite a few characters. We made up all sorts of superhero adventures as kids, and I can credit him with making me into a huge “X-Men” comic book fan.

Stephen has inspired more than one character of mine. The first was a character, codenamed “Hawk” at his request. Years later, I drew on a lot of my old characters from my “Demon Rider” days to create some of the characters within the book my wife and I are writing, The Last VanDaryn. This was the first time where the character really took on a life of its own. For a long time, the name of that character was Stephen Hawkke. Only recently did that change. The last name of Hawkke survived, but the first name was changed to something that sounds more in keeping with the fictional society of Iridia.

Ironically, I’m still using a lot of these characters, and as happened with Hawkke, they’ve grown into characters quite independent of their original inspiration. In most cases, the last names have been changed. They’re no longer superheroes, either, but rather agents within the CIA. They’re all characters within what I hope will be one of the biggest epics I ever write. That has a working title of The Dark Hours and is something of a reverse on your typical alien conspiracy theory. Only a handful of the original characters have carried over, though, and I doubt any others will. Stephen’s character is the only one who sports the name of his original inspiration, Stephen Long. For a long time, the character had even retained his nickname of “Hawk,” but with a “Hawkke” in The Last VanDaryn, I decided it was one Hawk too many. Agent Long would simply have to make a name for himself with his real name. Even more humorous, Stephen might find life as a third character within yet another book, but plans for that one are rather sketchy.

The Dark Hours unfortunately lingers in limbo. When will I get back to that story? Most likely, I’ll return to it after I’ve finished with The Last VanDaryn and The Cold Shoulder. The good news for me is that I’ve already written more than 50,000 words for The Dark Hours, and odds favor that a new draft will let me copy and paste much of my work from that previous draft. A few important changes are needed, but even my wife has said some of my best work was in there.

On a humorous note, my kids came into the room as I was digging out these old drawings and all the rest that were packed up with them. My six-year-old daughter, who is quite the budding artist, was mightily impressed. “Did you draw these when you were a little boy, Daddy?” I told her I did, and she was excited when she recognized “Hawk” in more than one drawing.


Sandra Ruttan said...

I base bits of characters on different people, sometimes.

But the villains? They're almost always named for someone who's hurt me in the past. Some people kill their enemies, but for me, I want the readers to hate them.

DesLily said...

good response to Jess's question.. sometimes I think we don't realize when we are "discovering" a characters personality that we had seen it somewhere before.. maybe even as a child..

Bill, the Wildcat said...

Sandra, it's interesting you say that. I've heard of others doing that, and I'm surprised that I haven't. Certainly, writing does offer a nice way to indirectly stick it back to someone.

And Pat, that's a really interesting point! I do have to wonder how much I've done that without thinking about it.