“a lady novelist…remarked to me once that writing novels was a cannibal’s art, in which one often mixed small portions of one’s friends and one’s enemies together, seasoned them with imagination, and allowed the whole to stew together into a savory concoction.” Diana Gabaldon, in Voyager, Book 3 of the Outlander series.
It has long been said that princes feared satires more than swords. And certainly, the urge is within every person- to see those they hate brought low in a variety of cruel and inventive ways endlessly upon the page.
But how far is too far? When does a parody or similarities to a real person cross the line from inspiration to catharsis to obsession?
One of my characters is a melange of all the men who have ever treated me badly- be they relatives, lovers, coworkers, or just chance encounters. He bears no physical resemblance (bar height) to any of them…but there’s still enough there that I can see all of them in him. I wonder, sometimes, if I have lost sight of the whole by focusing on the component parts.
One of my other characters is based on a mix of some female friends of mine- aspects of them, both good and bad. I like to think that she is entirely a creation of my own, but I can look at her and see all of them within her.
Is there such a thing as a purely original character? Some would say yes, others say that all characters are mixes of other characters that have come before. While I would never be foolish enough to deny the tropes and derivative natures of popular characters, I hope that mine are a little further from the madding crowd.
This project has been something I have been working on for a year or so, kicking around for six months before that. Some of the characters are very, very real. Some are still completely nebulous.
My antagonists (there are three, though one of the three is actually a pair) are very, very clear for the first portion of the story. As the story moves forward, they recede, and I am having a hard time replacing them with something as sinister, as menacing, as straight-up nasty as my first enemies.
Maybe I need to meet some nastier people.