About the time I started writing, I read a blog post by an author I liked where she stated that she never named a character after a person in her life. I’ve read a lot of authors that do model characters after friends and family, but she didn’t. She said it was because she never knew when, later in the series, the character might die.
When I first started making up my own stories, I had a similar problem. If you name a character after your sister, then decide later that character turns evil or dies or something, what do you tell your sister? “Sorry, sis, but your character just suffered a brutal murder, so she’s not a character anymore.” Yeah, not so much.
So I, like that long ago author, decided to never name a character after a friend. But you know what? Life has a strange sense of humor.
In the Victoria Novak series book 2, Archangel’s Salvation, Tori gets stuck with a rookie. His name is Gage Sawyer, and he’s an egotistical 21 year old fire witch. He and Tori get into some spectacular fights because Gage, of all of her team, is the most like her. He’s stubborn, arrogant, and somewhere deep down a little bit insecure. He’s a fighter, and he doesn’t flinch at the harsher side of FPD work. Gage is a black-and-silver goth boy who likes to dye the tips of his short spiky hair blue and wear a diamond stud in his ear.
When I created Gage, I chose a name I liked that represented the strong-willed character I was crafting. And I didn’t know a Gage. Great, let’s go with that. What I forgot was that my sister did know a Gage. I think I’d heard his name in passing, but I was away at college and I’d never met the guy. No worries, right? Wrong.
Here we are in the editing stages of Archangel’s Salvation and the writing stages of Shadow’s Lament (Tori Book 3), and you know what? I know a Gage. That friend of my sister’s that I heard in passing? Yeah, they’re dating. So there’s a Gage in my life.
And it’s screwing with my character! My Gage is all fiery temper and flesh-covered steel with biting sarcasm. Her Gage is kind, funny, and has an endearing Arkansas accent. My Gage likes fighting. Her Gage likes fishing. My Gage hates werewolves with a passion. Her Gage hates losing a game of Catan (to me, of course).
You see how this is getting all confused in my head?
So I’ve termed this problem The Gage Phenomenon. It’s that moment in writing when you realize that the character you created and the person you know start to get confused in your head. I’m having trouble writing my Gage because her Gage keeps intruding in my head. Tori has started to rely on him and he’s slowly weaving himself deeper into the heart of their team. He’s indispensable, and she needs him. And now, everything’s all mixed up in my head.
And yet, I couldn’t dream of life without either Gage. Mine is a part of me, a part of the story I tell. My sister’s is a part of her, a part of what makes her happy. So I keep writing, and every time I write his name, I recreate my Gage separate from hers. What else can I do? 🙂