Okay, so by now, the picture has become quite clear. Writers — the lot of us here at the Deb Ball, at least (but I’d reckon most of us!) — are all thieves. We borrow bits and pieces of people, little quirks, bigger traits, fatal flaws, from those all around us to make our characters come to life, to make them feel real and tangible and oh-so-human.
But the people we steal the most from? Ourselves. As writers, I’d venture to say, we imbue some part of our own emotional core into our characters, even if they seem like they couldn’t be further from our truth.
In some books (like my current WIP), the similarities are obvious and astounding. In others, you have really go looking for them.
Case in point: TINY PRETTY THINGS. People always ask why we didn’t put an Indian character in the book. We didn’t because we wanted to keep the material factually realistic and relevant — very rarely do you see a dancer of South Asian descent in the competitive world of ballet. However, you do see plenty of Korean dancers in that world, and so we went with that truth.
But just because there’s no Indian girl in TINY PRETTY THINGS doesn’t mean there’s none of me in the book. I’m ever-present (as is Dhonielle). It’s in the way June clings to the ritual of her tea, or how her mother calls the payphone every morning and night to check up on her. It’s in the way Bette likes to snuggle up into a bear hug, tucked into her boyfriend’s oversized sweaters. It’s in Gigi’s flightiness or June’s never-been-kissed angst. It’s in her misfit emotional state, the idea that she’ll never quite be white enough or Asian enough. The loneliness of that. Boy, do I ever know that feeling. I’m scattered all across the pages of that book, as I will be in every book I write. If only you know what to look for.
So know that yes, your writer friends are likely stealing pieces of your soul to immortalize in their work. (And we know you’re doing the same to us!) But know, too, that they’re putting so much more of themselves into it, too.