Pressed Leaves: The Genesis of Fictional Characters

People are fascinating. Amazing and terrible. Perfect and flawed. No two are ever alike. The possibilities for conflict are endless; perhaps that’s why writers and poets have been obsessed with them for thousands of years. There’s a reason no one writes about bowls of fruit — human beings are simply more interesting.

We learn so much about ourselves through fiction. As one of my best friends once told me, books are how we emotionally prepare ourselves for the challenges of life. We read about love and loss at an early age and learn to deal with them in imaginary worlds before we have to face them in the real one. That’s why the characters in our favorite novels are so dear to us, as if they were living, breathing people.

Of course, story characters don’t just spring out of nothing. They’re not made up, not really. Bits and pieces of real people wander around the writer’s imagination and emerge in new combinations. In a sense, all of the people who ever make an impression on the author become a part of their creation.

Maybe that’s the best part about creating new characters. I don’t always know where the individuals in my fiction come from or what traits I’ve gleaned from which friends and family members, but it’s kind of cool to think that parts of these people will live on in my characters.

Character creation is not just about stealing reality; it’s also about accidentally preserving the people I love like pressed leaves. As long as the story survives, so will they.

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When I’m not pressing my loved ones into giant books for posterity, I like to tweet. If you like to tweet, I invite you to pop on over to my feed: @jonnyeberle.

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