David Pearce writes about how he found the inspiration for two of his characters.
Have you ever wondered how authors invent the characters that you read about in your favourite books? I hadn’t really thought about it until I read the first few chapters of Sophia Bennett’s soon to be published novel ‘The Look’. One of the characters is a University lecturer who has lost his job and is trying to become a writer even though he isn’t really any good. I thought this sounded like me, so I asked Sophia about this character on Twitter and she said that the character was based on herself!
Of course, any writer will use their own family, friends and themselves as the basis for characters in the books they write. (That’s why you often find similar characters in every book by your favourite authors.) I did the same for my novel ‘The Girl on the Train’ for most of the characters. However, the two central characters of Holly and Bobby didn’t spring from my imagination, and they weren’t they based on anyone I knew. They quite literally appeared in front of me!
I wrote my first, unpublished, novel while I was travelling up to London by train to teach in a Language school. One morning I found myself sitting across from two girls in very distinctive blue blazers. They immediately interested me because the younger girl was small and blonde and probably in Year 8, while the older girl was a brunette probably in Year 10. I found out that they weren’t sisters, just two girls going to the same school. However, they were quite clearly very close despite the difference in age and attitude. I asked myself the obvious question to a writer. Why? I picked up my pen and wrote a quick character sketch of each girl and within fifteen minutes I had the basic story of my novel. Over the next few months I saw them quite often on the train and I started to change their characters as I found out more about them. That happens a lot when you’re a writer. Some of the comments and incidents that appear in my novel are lifted straight from those journeys. The following school year I saw the older girl travelling to school on her own, looking subdued and obviously missing the fun she used to have with her friend, and the end of my novel pretty much wrote itself.
Whilst the two girls have probably now left school, and are in work or university, they will always be the two main characters from my first novel.
You can read more about David’s book, The Girl on the Train, here