Jerry-rigging a character, 1979

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These journals and notebooks from my early years as a writer are invaluable both in researching my current book and in understanding my own journalistic journey.By Howard Fielding. Offered under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

Here’s another excerpt from my journals as a young writer, this time about a character study that I never wrote down:

The trip back home was uneventful, although I did create a character and story based on B’s former fiancee, Jerry — mostly to show myself how easy it is to create interesting characters outside of my immediate experience. In fact, such characters might be more interesting!

Howard W. Fielding, “Journal, Volume II,” 11 January 1979

Thank you, Captain Obvious!

OF COURSE characters unlike yourself and the people you’ve known will be more interesting! New writers are often told to “write what you know,” and that’s what I had done so far. But it was so much more interesting to meet Jerry, a farmer, and try to get inside his head.

Four decades later, that seems self-evident. I’ve taken to trying to write about people and situations far from my own experiences. Today’s literature dwells in the world of identities. As a writer, I must put myself into many other people’s shoes.

But most of my characters, like Fred in “He Said, She Said,” still have common threads with my own life. I think you’ll be able to pick them out when you do finally meet them.

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