If you’ve read Deadtown, you know that Vicky has a niece named Maria. Coincidence? Not really. A few years back, I was visiting Kathy and another high school friend. We sat on the deck at Kathy’s house and watched the kids run around the back yard. Kathy’s daughter Maria was terrific with the younger kids, and everyone had a good time.
Later, when I was writing the first scene that shows Vicky with her niece and nephews, the image that came to mind was Maria and the boys in Kathy’s back yard. So I went with that image. As Vicky’s niece grew in my mind, she became someone who was smart, maybe a little shy, patient with her brothers, and close to her family—a lot like my impressions of the real-life Maria. And she looked like the real-life Maria, too. So I called her Maria, because that was the easiest way for me to hold her image in my mind as I crafted the story.
As I wrote and revised, Deadtown‘s Maria and the real world’s Maria diverged, of course. Vicky’s niece stayed eleven, while the real Maria has grown into a sophisticated teenager. And of course Vicky’s niece developed her own personality as I got to know her better. While I wouldn’t say that I actually “put” Maria in my novel, she definitely served as the inspiration for a character in that book.
So if I look at you funny, it’s probably not that I’m sizing you up as a potential character. In fact, I’m probably not even seeing you but am deep in my own mindscape, watching a scene unfold. Probably. But on the other hand, inspiration comes from everywhere, right?