Where do characters come from?


JK Rowling explained how Harry Potter appeared in her mind while she was on a train. Toni Morrison came up with the idea for Beloved after she read a newspaper article about a former slave murdering her child. J.R.R. Apparently, Tolkien imagined a hobbit while he was grading student exams (which gives me hope every time I have to spend an afternoon grading).

Sometimes a character is based on someone the author knows, of course. Characters come to life in countless ways. But it is curious, isn’t it, that humans can imagine other humans (not to mention talking animals and visiting aliens) with whole other lives. Over at the Fairy Tale Asylum I’m working on secondary characters, and I don’t know where the truck driver, Hasher, came from, but he was there waiting when I needed a truck driver to find an unconscious boy in the story. And I know how Hasher thinks, how he worries about losing his job but can’t bring himself to do the wrong thing.

As far as we know, animals don’t do this. My Sadie might bark at other dogs as they walk by the house, but she doesn’t wonder about their interior lives, imagining what their homes are like or how well their owner treats them. And anyway, even if she did think such things, she’s got no way to share it.

Who was the first human to tell a fictional story? At some point, the stories changed from I-was-sneaking-away-from-the-panther to a lie. I mean, which came first? Lying or storytelling? (Lying, right? You don’t need words to lie.) Stories or myths?

To think that we started with grunts and pointing–no song, no stories, no art–and someone in the great timeline of human evolution sang the first notes, told the first story, and drew the first picture. And how did the others around them react? Who was the first to sit around a fire and listen to a tale?

Thanks for reading!


The Blue Jar is available on Amazon.

And some art is available is at Society6.

Much love and thanks again.

2 thoughts on “Where do characters come from?

  1. I love this. I’m going to share it with my writing group.

    Oh characters – where do they come from? Some of mine come out of real life. Many are variations on me. Some just show up and jump into my stories on their own. Secondary characters turn into main characters and main characters vanish.

    But back to your thoughts… Good point about the first human to create fiction. Brilliant point. That was a human who changed the course of humanity!

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