Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bold Benares #5


This man, Sakhai Prasad, was my model for the character of Ramesh in my novel Sister India. Like Ramesh, Sakhai was an innkeeper; he was the cook and manager of the two bedroom guest flat where I spent my three months in Varanasi (or Benares).

I think he's the only real-life model I ever used for a fictional character. I needed that kind of help, though, to write from an Indian's point-of-view. He and I were locked up in curfew in the flat for the two weeks that Varanasi was shut down by riots during my visit. He spoke little English and I spoke only a few words of Hindi. Still I felt we'd had full conversations.

You writers among us, do your characters come to you or do you base them on particular people or combinations of people?

(Welcome, BTW, to Judy and to Jewon An in South Korea. One of my stepsons is teaching English now at a university in South Korea, so I feel a special connection there.)



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7 comments:

mamie said...

I was going to send you an email about this, but since you asked here....

I have just finished a story for my writing group using the character whose photograph I chose from a pile in your workshop. He came alive to me during our free-writing. Thank you for introducing me to Jamal!

Other characters come to me as composites of people I know, or I make them composites to keep family and friends from being offended.

I am loving this photo series of yours.

Debra W said...

I still distinctly remember your talking about this man when I came to hear you speak at Rancho La Puerta. I found your words about him fascinating which caused me to read Sister India in just one or two days!

I have not really dipped my toes into the fiction realm, as of yet, but my dad has and I can share what he told me about his experience. Some of his characters were based on real people(me, my daughters, his wife), but once those characters were created, they came alive. He used to tell me that they would wake him up in the middle of the night, or that he would want them to do one thing, and they would insist on doing something else. Kind of creepy! I often wonder where characters in novels come from.

Peggy Payne said...

Mamie, I'm glad you and Jamal chose each other. You're a provocative combo.

Debbie, your father's experience is interesting to me because he starts with real people and then they start acting as individuals apart from their models. Sounds as if wherever we start with characters they wind up in the same place: out of the writer's control, which is as it should be.

Greta said...

My unpublished characters start as someone I know and then they develop from there.

I too like your photos and the blogs regarding Sister India. They make me feel like I did while I was reading the novel. Like I was living in an exotic country myself!

Peggy Payne said...

I'm going to experiment a bit more with that approach, Greta. I'm glad the pix are "a trip". I'm enjoying seeing them again myself.

Kelley said...

It's a combo, for me. Facets of personality are usually amalgams of people I know, though I dot them with other behaviours or quirks to round them out. They are very much entities speaking.

Hope you are well!

Peggy Payne said...

I like your combo, Kelley. I do a little "dotting" as well. But they certainly are separate entities. I've found myself "seeing" interactions between characters from different novels. Once I had a sick feeling and realized that I'd just had a flash of the main character from Revelation and from my novel-in-progress running off together and leaving me.