Have you ever had a moment in your life where you’ve run into someone, either at work, at a party, or on the street, where they seemed to epitomize one of your main characters? That as you looked at them and took them in, it felt as though you were looking at a physical manifestation of something that was created in your mind?
I had one of those moments yesterday.
Okay, I suppose I cheated a little bit, because the character on my book is heavily based on an old friend/co-worker/colleague/whatever label you want to put on it. On The Border has yet to hit virtual bookshelves and no one really knows the characters yet, so let me give you an introduction.
Jason Clarke was only supposed to be in the story for two or three chapters. Unfortunately, I have no control over my own characters, and he ended up reappearing chapters after he initially left and sticking around. He’s a bartender that Cassidy Sundance meets on the run and takes her in, not quite believing her “I’m on the run from the cops” story until he catches a news report that backs her up.
Jason becomes a friend and protector, somebody to guide her along the path she’s on because he’s done something similar before. Or at least he’s gone about breaking the law and avoiding the cops. He’s a real character, that one. He’s a sarcastic smartass, of course, just to even things out. He has terrific insight into the workings of the average person’s mind and how people will respond in high-risk situations.
Jason Clarke is one hundred percent based on my old manager, whose name is also Jason.
When I first started writing On The Border for NaNoWriMo in 2010, Jason and his personality fit exactly what I needed for the story. I never really expected to be publishing the story, so I never anticipated having to tell Jason that I stole him. But I love this story so much, and I think many other people will, too, that I really wanted to self-publish and get it out there for others to enjoy.
So I did what I had to do: I told real-life Jason. I gave him a “first press” copy of the book (the version that I’m editing and then creating the final version from) over lunch. And in my months of preparing to tell him (okay, weeks, really), none of it mattered.
Because our lunch consisted of catching up and about twenty seconds talking about On The Border when I handed him the book.
Sitting down yesterday, I just listened to Jason talk. For one, it was an interesting experience to talk with a manifestation of my character. While Jason Clarke started out simply as Jason, he evolved into something more. Character Jason became separate from real Jason and turned into a character all his own, despite similar looks, actions, and speech.
Second, it’s been well over six months since I last talked with Jason, and the first time since we worked together that we actually sat down and caught up (so, well over three years. Minus that one time he installed a new radio in my car). It was almost a humbling experience, taking me back to the time when life was a little easier, a little happier, and definitely not so complicated.
Seeing the Jason who was the inspiration behind Jason Clarke always puts a grin on my face, both because I get to see my character in the flesh and because I miss interacting with Jason on a semi-daily basis.
The big question now is: How will real life Jason respond to seeing a version of himself in print?