I Am My Characters and My Characters Are Me

12 Jul

003So let’s talk about that, shall we?  Where do my characters come from? Who are they really?  Where does the inspiration come from for those characters?

But first, a quote…..


“Our family makes us who we are, defines us totally. When you go to a therapist or have analysis, whatever reason you go in for, they will always bring you back to your family. We’re strong or weak according to what family we have. You might have left them long ago, might not even talk to them, but something lingers; we have no choice.” Sandrine Bonnaire
Truth?  For me, probably!  I’m adopted, so I have nothing to go by when talking about blood genetics, but I do know my adopted family greatly molded who I am today, and I think that’s inevitable for all of us.  I turned out okay, and for that I have my parents to thank….and the lessons they taught me, and the actions I observed, are prevalent in my characters and in my books.

I’m not just a storyteller.  My stories are vehicles which carry truths, messages and philosophies.  I prefer to write in first person because it allows me the freedom to expound on my reflections and philosophy about life…through my characters.

So, what does that look like in my books?

Here’s an example……


“I’m not a big fan of the word “closure.”  It seems like New Age bullshit to me.  How does knowing the name of the killer bring your daughter back? How does it ease the pain?  How does it lessen the number of tears that are cried ten years down the road on your dead child’s birthday?  It doesn’t!  The best one can hope for are answers to questions, the de-mystifying of an unacceptable situation.  But closure?  You never close the door on a loved one who was taken from you violently.  In fact, I propose you always want that door left open.”town_881


As a young kid I was an observer.  I still am.  I was the little kid in the corner watching everyone else, listening to them, gauging their reactions to stimuli, trying to understand why they acted the way they acted.  I still do that.  I don’t talk much in public but I miss very little.  People are people are people. We all have the same senses. We all have the same emotions, and my characters say the things I have observed over the years….and they say things I believe to be truth about this thing we call life.

That particular section, spoken by my protagonist, Eli Baker, finds its birthplace in the death of my father when I was nineteen.  It’s been forty-eight years since he died suddenly of a heart attack, died in my arms on a Friday night, and I still haven’t experienced closure….and quite frankly I don’t want to.  The happy times and the bad times of my father, I want to keep them all close by.  They are comfort to me.


Eli is a no-nonsense kind of guy.  He has a pretty defined sense of right and wrong, and heaven help you if you do him, or a loved one of his, wrong.  An eye for an eye is pretty much how Eli operates.

Do I believe in an eye for an eye?  It would be the safest thing in the world for me to say no, I don’t, that it’s a barbaric way to think in today’s civilized world.  But remember, we’re talking truth here…deep-down honesty.  If you kill my wife, or my son, do I have it in me to kill you in return?

I’m not sure I have a definitive answer for that question!

So I understand Eli and I think he understands me.

Eli comes from a belief I have that there is good in all of us and a touch of evil in all of us.  No one is lilly-white.  Few of us are completely dark but the potential for darkness is there, hidden deep within….and under the right set of circumstances…..well, who knows?  The inspiration for that discussion of evil? Remember, I had Ted Bundy as a paperboy growing up, and I can tell you, Ted appeared to be perfectly normal….so how do we know?


Next week we’ll talk about the women in my novels, and my special fondness for strong, powerful women.


“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


26 Responses to “I Am My Characters and My Characters Are Me”

  1. Lea Tartanian July 12, 2016 at 2:37 pm #

    Hi Bill this is so excellent. I also write in first person I can’t seem to write any other way. I just love Eli Baker he is awesome. Love the title of your artistry for today. I have two more saved to read. It has been so hectic. My husband has to have a procedure. It has been a couple weeks of appointments and tests for both of us. So I continue to be behind in everything.
    Along with your book, I did read a piece of fiction the other day that is written in the first person and I noticed how they did exactly what you are doing in your book. The author writes in the first person but he insert paragraphs that are not first person like you do. I noticed it right away and thought of you . I just love that you do that and taught me that I never knew it before . I just love that you do that and taught me that I never knew it before . I will get back to you with your other writes. God bless

    • Billybuc July 12, 2016 at 3:06 pm #

      Lea, you are so kind with your words of praise for my work. Thank you so much. I hope things go well with your husband. I am sending you hugs and prayers, my friend, and a ton of gratitude.

  2. 1authorcygnetbrown July 12, 2016 at 3:54 pm #

    Hi Bill,
    When I read your title, I had to think about that and I can’t exactly say that I am my characters and I would hope that my characters are not me either. I am never my protagonist or my antagonist, sometimes I might put my views into a minor character, but I can’t say that any of them are ME.

    That said, I can empathize with my characters and I can step into their shoes and experience what they are doing and feeling, but I am not them. I simply live vicariously through them and their situation. It is not what I would do given this situation. Rather I ask myself: What would this character do in this situation?

    I think there’s a danger in each of our characters being like us in that (especially in a series), each character sounds and acts predictably like the author. That said, it would probably be okay for the protagonist of the series to be like you because then the character would have the same voice all through the book.

    Enough of my soapbox. Best of luck with you, your characters, and your books!

    • Billybuc July 12, 2016 at 4:01 pm #

      Interesting thoughts, Donna. It’s always nice to hear other viewpoints. Thanks for sharing. Now I need to go write about my alter-ego. LOL

      • 1authorcygnetbrown July 12, 2016 at 8:51 pm #

        Lol, I am definitely not a yes man, but you’re still my friend even if we do things differently. If we were all the same, this world would be pretty boring.

  3. divalounger July 12, 2016 at 5:28 pm #

    I get it–my poetry is not really autobiographical either–but is a bit of me in there somewhere? You betcha! If it isn’t personal on some level, why do it at all–at least that is how I think about it

    • Billybuc July 12, 2016 at 5:54 pm #

      Totally agree, my friend. Of course I’m not a vigilante, but some of the thoughts of that character come from my experiences and thoughts.

      • Billybuc July 12, 2016 at 9:13 pm #

        For sure, my friend.

  4. Dee July 12, 2016 at 9:48 pm #

    I believe closure is best left alone at times. Why open yourself to unnecessary pain? I enjoyed reading about your association with your book characters. Much value is imparted to us from our family and past experiences.

    • phoenix2327 July 13, 2016 at 12:41 pm #

      Wow. The way you described yourself as a boy is the way my son was as a young child. He was the kid who refrained from participating and just observed everything and everyone. He would eventually join in but not before he was ready. One of his teachers spoke to me about it one day. Nick had been quietly watching his classmates engage in an activity when she noticed him. After some persuading, he joined them. She wanted to know if he was like this outside of school. I said he had then asked her if she got the impression he was humouring her when he agreed to her request. She said she had but thought she had imagined it. I assured her she hadn’t. He was seven years old at the time. lol

      Your title reminded me of something Stephen King wrote in his book ‘On Writing’. He had just been hit by a van and the driver was sitting with him waiting for the ambulance. As they spoke, Stephen King observed that he had just been run over by one of his characters. 🙂

      • Billybuc July 13, 2016 at 1:53 pm #

        Zulma, I would like your son, and the bit about King is hilarious yet one I understand quite well. LOL Thanks for sharing both with me.

  5. lawrencehebb July 13, 2016 at 11:22 pm #

    This was really interesting. I (so far) am most ‘at home’s with the third person but I couldn’t help putting a little bit of ‘me’ in my main character, actually it was probably more than a little!
    The ‘eye for an eye’ sounds barbaric today but back then it was pretty lenient! It was ‘only an eye for the one lost’
    Great stuff.

    • Billybuc July 14, 2016 at 2:08 pm #

      Great stuff from you, too, Lawrence. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  6. froggy213 July 14, 2016 at 2:58 pm #

    Bill, I had a difficult time commenting on this post when I first read it. Tears welled up, because you know my Grandson was taken in a violent way, and his brother is named Eli.

    Yes in many ways, I am my characters and they are me, but don’t tell anyone because they may think I am going off the edge. ( I have been accused of that at times).

    Thanks for the reminder. Now, back to the book I am working on. Thanks friend.

    • Billybuc July 14, 2016 at 6:09 pm #

      Thanks for sharing that, Greg…sorry for the name choice. 🙂

  7. Melanie July 16, 2016 at 6:23 am #

    You know, I didn’t think it in my teen years or growing up, but being an observer is one of the BEST things ever – especially when it comes to writing.

    This Eli Baker character sounds like quite a character! It’s so interesting to read more about your characters, why you chose them, why they are the way they are, etc. Fascinating – can’t wait to read about some of your female characters, yay!!

    Hope you’re having a wonderful start to the weekend my friend 🙂

    • Billybuc July 16, 2016 at 2:29 pm #

      Thank you Mel and I agree, as a teen I was not too fond of my character traits. I suffered mightily the teen years with self-worth….and now look at you and I! Hooray for happy endings!

      The female characters will be covered Tuesday…see you then, and have a fabulous winter weekend.

  8. Cynthia July 17, 2016 at 11:32 am #

    It’s funny how we can begin to identify with our characters and how we can pull parts of ourselves to give them dimension. In the process, they can teach us things or even give us insights into ourselves, huh?
    Hope you’ve been well, Big Bro. Slowly getting back into writing after being gone. Or…I should say blogging. I’ve been writing like crazy, actually…working on a new novel. 🙂

    • Billybuc July 17, 2016 at 2:33 pm #

      Lil Sis, welcome back. So glad to hear you’re working on a new novel….YOU GO, GIRL!!!!!

      I don’t seem capable of keeping myself out of my novels. Maybe I’m a bit narcissistic????

  9. Michael Milec July 20, 2016 at 1:18 am #

    Am I doing something wrong?

  10. Michael Milec July 20, 2016 at 1:23 am #

    Sorry my friend for the above comment. I have tried several times unsuccessfully , then by the help of my son I tried differently and I will use this method for my original comment: ” You are but a character”- is in our culture a derogatory expression to a mischievous behavior of a person regardless of age. Now, I have to ”chew” on your literal expression of being character… A huge puzzle in “my” consequential writing keeping i mind “Our family makes us who we are, defines us totally…” Quite complicated for me freely to do just that,- defining Michael’s two different families DNA. See, the previous is still very relevant and the present is most important. I am learning to coordinate into one meaningful portrait due to its enormous importance which is based on Galatians two twenty…
    Thanks my friend for your patience with me.

    • Billybuc July 20, 2016 at 2:32 pm #

      Michael my friend, for a person who is now speaking and writing a second language, your insights and the way you express them are exquisite. Beautiful thoughts here, my friend, and I thank you for them.

      • Michael Milec July 20, 2016 at 6:49 pm #

        Oh Bill my friend, you are very kind to me, but I have to confess my onus: Now if I would be of a conceited nature , I would begin to think of myself something like ” you might be even acquainted with something you know what are you talking about Michael.” However, since my frail youth I carry in my spirit , “Even so on your part, when you have done everything that was assigned and commanded you, say, We are unworthy servants – possesing no merrit, for we have not gone beyond our obligation; we have merely done what wa our duty to do.” Personally I take it ” I have not gone beyond my ability…” so my goal is reaching a point being able to say “I am unworthy…”

      • Billybuc August 5, 2016 at 2:25 pm #

        MIchael my friend, when I think of you, I think of love and humility.

  11. Shauna L Bowling August 4, 2016 at 4:33 pm #

    I love Eli Baker. He’s loyal and doesn’t take any shit from anyone. I agree with you – that we all have a touch of darkness in us. I remember a time when my sister, who is ten years younger than I, came running through the sliding glass doors crying and bleeding profusely from the forehead. As it turns out, a boy in the neighborhood, who was sitting in a tree, threw something at her as she was on her way home. Whatever it was, it did some real damage. I was incensed when I saw her bleeding like that. I bolted out the door in search of the boy and was ready to beat the shit out of him until I realized I was twice his age. So I told his dad what he did and let him deal with it. The point is, I was thoroughly enraged when my sister was harmed. It was all I could to to hold myself back.

    • Billybuc August 5, 2016 at 2:26 pm #

      Sorry I’m so late, Sha. Thanks for sharing that and that’s exactly what Eli talks about. I’ve been in that same place and I understand that kind of rage….and I think many others do as well if they are willing to admit it.

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