Are you sure you want to be a character in my book?
After Finding Atticus was published, one of my male students (I’ll call him “Zeke” to protect his identity) announced, with his chest puffed out, at the beginning of class one day, “Mrs. Adams, since you have a girl on the cover of your first book, now you should put me on the cover of the next book. I could be the protagonist.” (We’d been studying literary terms, so I guess he figured if he threw in one of those cherished words, it would charm me into writing him into my story line.)
Uh-huh…I thought it was a great idea. Although I have no connection to the model on the cover of Over the Edge, I certainly kept this young man’s suggestion in mind. In middle school, he was a pretty popular “cool” kid, with lots of friends. Girls turned their heads when he walked down the hall. He was athletic. He was a charmer. But he had one flaw that he didn’t know I knew about (besides his vanity) – he was a bully to his sister (she confided in me a few times) and he also put down those he saw as “not cool”. He was good material for a character, all right.
So, did he show up in my book?
Oh, yeah! Enter the writing of Over the Edge.
Zeke didn’t exactly get top billing in the book, though, because he didn’t qualify as a protagonist. So what role did he earn? The antagonist, of course. (Bet you saw THAT one coming!) When I was writing Brock Anderson, the bully, into my book, “Zeke” was the inspiration for the mental image that kept me going. Every time I had the protagonist, Dylan, “one up” the bully, Brock, I smiled and gave a mental high five to “Zeke’s” sister who had been bullied by him all those years. In the end, “Zeke” …errr, Brock..got his “comeuppance”. Because in my books, bullies don’t win.
Just for the record, others have played a positive inspirational role in my plots. In Finding Atticus, my husband’s Uncle Bud Hubbard was clearly the inspiration for “Mr. Hubbard”. Everyone loved Uncle Bud, and in the book, Mr. Hubbard was a lovable character. My Aunt Ida’s name showed up in the book, although I didn’t equate my young, vibrant real-life aunt as being the counterpart to littlle, spunky old lady Ida Parker in the nursing home in the book. (Whew, I hope that description keeps me out of the dog house with my aunt!)