Posts Tagged ‘Al Swearengen’

Inspirations behind my characters

October 30th, 2011

So my friend from high school wants to know who the inspirations are behind my characters, after reading my last posting called “Book Club.” I get this question quite often, so I’ll elaborate on my answers here.

 When I first started writing, I didn’t have actual people behind my characters. It was just a love story between a Banker and the daughter of a North Carolina plantation owner. I decided to give Abby red hair, to match the fire inside her (very cliche, I know, but it just seemed right to me. I only had a handful of choices available anyway: black, brown, red, blonde. Give me a break!) and to give Ben blonde hair and of course tan skin, since he’s in the sun all day, every day. As I started to write, their faces began to form in my mind. Abby looked sort of like a girl I knew in high school in Newport News, VA. She had gorgeous strawbery blonde  hair but in my memory she tanned well!?! Unlike me, who burned/burns like drumsticks in oil. She was a beautiful girl. Bear with me, I’m going to try to find her on Facebook right now….please enjoy the easy listening music while you wait…it’s Neil Diamond…now it’s the Bee Gees…Found her! She is still beautiful, and living in Utah! Three children and a cute hubby. BUT her hair isn’t red anymore. It’s light brown. One of her children has the same red hair that she did though! Love genetics. Genes live on! I use genetics in my writing all the time. Abby inherited the red hair and fair skin from her father Nolan, but she inherited her bone structure and intelligence from her mother. And Ben looks just like his father. In my mind, he looked like Ryan Gosling  in the movie “The Notebook.”  Abby inherited another of her mother’s physical conditions as well, something that is hard for a marriage to endure…you’ll have to wait for the sequel to find out more.

Abby took on some of the same character traits as red-headed Kate Winslet’s character in the movie “Titanic.” You know, fighting for her own life/love instead of marrying the a** of a rich man her mother wanted her to marry. Ben took on some of the traits of Leonardo diCaprio in “Titanic.” Heart of gold, despite his hard life. I think both of my characters ended up being their own people though. And how they did that, I can’t really say. They are mostly creations of my own mind. All of the movies and t.v. I’ve seen, all of the books that I’ve read, all of the people I’ve met and known in my life– all of these things come to play when writing my characters.

When writing Nolan, I loved to watch the owner of the Gem Saloon, Al Swearengen, in the HBO series “Deadwood.” This man was a smooth operater: manipulative, amoral, foul-mouthed, at times abusive and murderous. But I couldn’t take my eyes off him, he was so naughty and swaggering. But sometimes, a brief glimpse of Al’s tender side was shown, and it made me care about him, in spite of his evil attributes. Genius! I wanted to try to do the same thing with Abby’s father, Nolan. But he was the hardest character I wrote. I felt like all of the dialogue I wrote for him sounded cliche, and how was I to go about showing both a genial, fatherly side and a murdering, racist side? That is difficult writing, in my opinion, and needs the most attention, because if it’s done right, you have an unforgettable Al Swearengen moment!

Uncle Jack is the character most clearly based on an actual person, that of my brother-in-law. He is such a great uncle to my kids and to this other nieces and nephews. He is able to access the child within, and that makes for very fun play dates and sleepovers and holiday visits. Wii, beach football and paddle ball, body surfing and boogie boarding, backyard croquet, movies, hikes, etc. are much for fun with this uncle. And I think that kind of relationship is so special and long-lasting, for all parties involved. Which is why I wrote Uncle Jack as such an important part of Abby’s childhood. I already knew such a relationship could be special, especially if Abby didn’t have good relations with her own parents.

All of the Sinclairs are tall, and I come by this character trait honestly because my in-laws are all very tall people. My mother-in-law is 6 feet 4 inches, my father-in-law is 6 feet 5 inches, and my husband and brother-in-law (not the Uncle Jack inspiration but equally as cool, and I must say a much better basketball player!) are both 6 feet 8! My sister-in-law is the shrimp, at a lowly 6 feet. I am 5 feet 10 inches tall, and I’ve always been able to hold my own in the height department. My boyfriends have usually been tall (over 6 feet) and I am taller than all of my friends but one, and she was an Olympic-class swimmer!  But when I met my husband, all of that height security went out the window. I now have to crane my neck to kiss my husband! Folks are very funny about tall people: they outwardly point at my poor in-laws when they are out and about, like they are escaped circus freaks or something. People ask them how tall they are EVERY DAY! I have seen this phenomenon too many times to count. The question is usually followed by “Do you play basketball??” It embarrasses me, this  personal questioning, executed by gawking short people with round eyes and open mouths. My mother-in-law sometimes gives the measurement in centimeters, to throw them off. I sometimes want my husband to answer the questions with an innocent “How short are you? Are you a gymnast?” But that would be mean…and too personal, right?! But I must say that with all of that height comes an undeniable respect. People are in awe of them, maybe even a little bit scared of them! And it was this attribute that I wanted to utilize, when writing the Sinclairs.

I’d love to hear which actor or actress you think should play Ben and Abby, Ingrid and Nolan, Eliza and Hector, if a movie were made of The Outer Banks House. Try to branch out from Kate Winslet, Ryan Gosling and Leonardo diCaprio!