Grab the Holy Water, people, because the demons abound! No, I'm not writing a paranormal literary fiction novel with a twist of chick lit and a touch of romance that takes place in an alternate reality on another world! Whew! Try saying that three times fast. I'm talking about the demons in our real life - evil stepsisters, wicked co-workers, friends that have betrayed us time and again, the clerk at the store that laughed at you when you asked if they had the dress in a size 3, the AC repairman that just couldn't make it to your house on the hottest freaking day of the year to fix the dying AC, etc - that somehow make it into our writing as totally unredeemable characters that often die a violent death!
Now, when I think of totally unredeemable characters, I always think of Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter series. J. K. Rowling wrote that character so well, that there is no way to like that character. She is unredeemable. She is hateable. I absolutely despise that character.
So, who was the inspiration for Dolores Umbridge? Was there a real person cleverly wrapped in fiction? Did someone make such an impact on J. K. Rowling's life, and not in a good way, that she suddenly came to life in the pages of a book? Have you done the same thing?
I repeat: have you done the same thing? How many of your less than likable characters are fashioned after people in your life that you don't like? Come on, now, honesty here, people. I mean, isn't it fun to create a character based on someone you don't like and then have horrible things happen to them? Isn't it fun to give the girl from high school who had perfect hair and complexion zits and bad hair days in your YA novel . . . and give her the same name so that all your friends absolutely know who you're writing about? Isn't it cathartic?
Have I done the same with people who have made my life miserable at some point? Yes and no! In my great Epic Fantasy novel that is languishing in boxes in my closet, there is a truly evil character that was inspired by the witch next door neighbor when I was growing up. She was all blonde and beautiful, friend to your face and enemy to your back. She was one of those people that no one would suspect of being so . . . bitchy! Dang, and I thought I exorcised those demons long ago. Seriously though, she did make it into a manuscript at some point. It felt good to have horrible things happen to this seemingly perfect person - pretty on the outside and dark on the inside!
Now, in recent manuscripts, I haven't done this. In recent manuscripts, I haven't had the need. Still, the world is full of inspiration for truly unredeemable characters to which horrible things might happen within the pages of a novel. How often do you use these inspiring people when creating despicable characters in your novels? How often do you weave fiction around real people you don't like and insert them in your novels? Do you exorcise the demons of the past by having horrible things happen to these characters?