Where Do Your Characters Come From?

End of Trail full cover

This question is frequently asked of authors. My answer is “They come from many places.”

My heroine in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series was inspired by three women: A female resident deputy I interviewed for a newspaper article, a female police officer and single mom who took me on a ride-along and shared a lot about her life, and a native Yokut who grew up on the reservation.

Tempe’s husband is a composite of the many pastors in my life—some are relatives.

Nick Two John’s appearance came another native Yokut. (He read Deadly Omen and called to tell me I got the Pow Wow right but didn’t mention recognizing himself.)

Over the years, I’ve held contests for people to have a character named after themselves. When I do this, the character in the book is always much different than the real person. My friends and now editor, Lorna Collins, won one of the contests, and her namesake has now appeared in three Deputy Crabtree mysteries as a ghost hunter.

Another friend and fan of the series pleaded with me to put her in a book I did, in Raging Water. Because the character has my friend’s looks and personality (as she wanted), I changed her name to Miqui Sherwood. When her friends read the book, they said I described her perfectly. She has since appeared in two more books, including the latest, End of the Trail.


Over the years I’ve met many interesting people, sometimes I borrow their personality traits to create a character or unusual appearance or way of dressing.

And often the character appears out of my imagination, especially the villains and the victims—though bits and pieces of real people might make up a part of one.

Over the years, I’ve heard of many ways that authors have created their characters, if you are an author, where do your characters come from?




4 thoughts on “Where Do Your Characters Come From?

  1. I am not sure whether End of the Trail will be the last or not. I do have other ideas popping around in my brain–but have another Rocky Bluff P.D. in progress right now. We’ll see what happens.


  2. Great post. My characters are sometimes based on real people, but they evolve away from the original model. Others have showed up fully formed out of nowhere, and I’ve had to get to know them, let them reveal themselves to me.


  3. As to whether or not it’s the end of the series–could be, but maybe not.

    I have a fan of my series who thinks Nick Two John is like the Native American character in the TV series of Longmire. (Longmire’s friend.) They do speak alike.


  4. Before I answer your question about where characters come from, is the title of the new book saying this is the last Tempe Crabtree book?

    As for where my characters come from… a lot like you. People I know and see, thought I mix up their looks, traits, and personalities, so hopefully no one sees them self in the book. My main character Shandra Higheagle came from my desire to write a Native American character after having met a couple of women who inspired be with their stories. Though I make her only half Native American and exploring her heritage along with me, so because I am not Native American. I’ve had readers who are tell me they enjoy the character. Her physical characteristics are from an ad in a magazine. I saw the model and thought, that’s Shandra.

    I wanted to write another mystery series, This time with a lawman. I decided to set it in the county where I grew up because it is so rural, and after riding with a Fish and Wildlife State Trooper and seeing how their jobs encompass both the game warden and regular trooper duties it was perfect. Not only does my Nez Perce character uphold the laws in the county where his ancestors lived, he can also work as a steward of the land and animals through his job. For his appearance I saw a photo of Adam Beach from a movie he acted in. I saw the photo of him in outdoor clothing sitting on a downed log and I thought, that’s Hawke.

    Fun post!


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