The Ericksons

Personal Traits in Your Characters #IWSG


It’s the 1st Wednesday of the month again. That’s when I take part in Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Thank you to this month’s IWSG co-hosts for the July 3 posting of the IWSG: Erika Beebe, Natalie Aguirre, Jennifer Lane, MJ Fifield, Lisa Buie-Collard, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor! Today I’ll be talking about the inspiration for personal traits in the characters I write as I answer this month’s optional IWSG question:

What personal traits have you written into your character(s)?

For this month’s question, I will formulate my answers using the only fiction work I’ve completed, “The Nature of Murder”. I haven’t finished the final edits, but for our purposes, it will suffice. The plot follows Luke, a police detective, and Willow, a conservation warden, as they try to solve a murder. There are parts of me in many of the characters.

Some of these personal traits are from who I have been in the past.

For example, Rosie Hernandez makes poor choices. This is especially apparent when we meet her ex-boyfriend, Hank. He doesn’t treat her well and is a magnet for trouble. Thankfully, she has moved on. That doesn’t mean that she’s over making poor choices, though.

I drew on my adolescent years to write Willow’s son, Jake. He’s basically a good kid, who again, has a propensity for stupidity. The mistakes he makes (which ultimately will land him in hot water) are mostly a result of fear and hormones. He was a lot of fun to write, and beta readers tend to adore his character. I think that’s because he is relatable.

Other traits come from who I was as I wrote the book.

I wrote Willow as a mother with my point of view. Her daughter, Gwen is on the autism spectrum and Willow is trying to help her become independent, while at the same time, she worries about whether Gwen will be able to make it on her own.

Kelly is another character into whom I put some of my personal traits. She’s a little dorky, but wants to prove her worth. She is willing to be adventurous, even if she is afraid.

I even used personal traits from whom I would one day be—who I am now.

Willow is a widow. Because my husband had terminal cancer, this was a form of therapy. I grieved in advance, though Willow. The circumstances, as well as her relationship with her husband, were different from mine. Still, the incredible sense of loss and overwhelm she feels is very real. I actually cried a lot writing some on the scenes.

I also created Virginia, an elderly African American woman with many of my personal traits (past and future). She had been married to a pastor.  Now widowed, she was somewhat of a recluse. She likes people but also prefers the solitude of nature. She forages for wild edibles, something I always wanted to learn about. Now I forage for mushrooms whenever I get the chance.

I often write personal traits of people I have known into characters.

Willow’s daughter, Gwen, was made after my daughter, Emily.  They are actually quite different from one another, but I was inspired to share some of the difficulties girls on the spectrum face, especially as they approach adulthood.

Pastor Dan Evans is one of my favorite characters because I created him based on my husband. He is a single dad to Becca, who I modeled after my daughter, Sam. Their father/daughter relationship was a lot of fun to write.  A lot of it involved imagination because at the time I wrote the first draft, my Sam was several years younger than Becca, a long time away from dealing with dating and an overprotective dad.

Many of the traits I give my characters are completely made up.

I have a drug dealer, poachers, and conservation wardens, as well as a town full of secrets. These all came from my imagination, as well as some fun research. In the beginning, I drove to north central Wisconsin to interview a conservation warden. He was incredibly helpful. The information he and some fantastic books gave me, helped to make my information and characters very realistic.

I strove to give each character a unique motivation. They all have positive personality traits as well as some negative ones. And they definitely each have their own unique voice.

If you’re a writer, where do you get inspiration for your characters?

What Are YOUR Thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather EricksonFacing Cancer as a Parent

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at Amazon.com:

The Memory Maker’s Journal 

Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

I also blog about living with cancer at Facing Cancer with Grace.

What are your thought? I'd love to hear them!

8 comments on “Personal Traits in Your Characters #IWSG

It’s nice to use not just good trait but the others. For me, it gives me a chance to work through them as I didn’t when they actually happened (like making poor decisions).

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I agree, Jacqui. Real people have faults and flaws along with their positive traits. It’s important to leverage these as a springboard for character growth. And for us writers, they can even be a sort of therapy.

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It’s only natural to pull traits from yourself and those you know for your characters. It helps make the well rounded and believable.

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Very good point, Patricia, Even when we meet people in real life, we expect them to have flaws or we suspect they aren’t being genuine. It’s even harder to sell a character in a novel as being real if they don’t show a fault or two.

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I love to write the bad traits in of those people I’ve cared about and the experiences they’ve been through. I write about mine too. Happy IWSG Day 🙂

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Hi Erika. Yes, there are so many places to pull our inspiration from.

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It’s good that you recognize where you are in your characters. Did you write them that way on purpose, or did you notice that coming out of them after the fact?

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Hi Liz. A little of both. All traits need to have a purpose. How do they drive the story forward and make it more interesting? So I think of these things as I plan out my plot. But of course, as the story is unfolding, I often find ways of changing a character to make it more effective.

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