I’ve written these character profiles prior to leaving for vacation, in a hope to keep the blog somewhat alive while I’m gone.
Grace was the one character who, in the first draft, was distinctly and specifically based on one person. It was also the one place where I was afraid I had been too obvious and would be found out. The giveaway detail? The girl who I based Grace on was, at the time of first writing, actually dating a guy named Colin. Since then, she and Colin have long-since broken up, and I have not spoken to her since college. By the time I was done with the first draft, Grace had become a bit more of a composite, but not much…still based on the same person, with details filled in from others who were incidentally her sorority sisters.
It was important that Grace was Greek because of the weird nature of inter-organizational relationships in college. With joint activities in college, most notably (in the case of CMU) Greek Sing, you had a chance to spend a lot of time with a group who had the same basic social ties as you…and then inevitably people start hooking up. My relationship with the person upon whom Grace is based was one of these friendships that maybe could have developed into something more but never did. That was for multiple reasons, but the biggest was her boyfriend, Actual Colin.
I met Actual Colin once at a party when I was in grad school. This means I’ve spent all of 45 minutes in any sort of conversation with him, if that, but he made a good first impression and seemed like a pretty nice guy. During senior year, though, I heard about him through the perspective of a somewhat dramatic relationship; they even broke up and got back together during that time. He developed into a villain pastiche in my mind, which is why he made it in the book. I also felt kind of shitty when I met him and he turned out to be a way better person than I had wrote. That’s one reason that Colin as a character softened even while I was writing the first draft, and why Colin in my current outline is much more sympathetic.
Colin’s arc in the first draft was a combination of me trying to redeem the character and a bit of wish-fulfillment. Grace the character represents the fantasy, the girl you chase. And in real life, my interactions with the person that Grace was based upon represented the biggest “what-if” I had while in college. Writing her in was cathartic, especially as at the time of the first draft all I could think about vis a vis that relationship was all the missed opportunities and places where I lacked initiative. Now, some seven years later, I can look back on a lot of the what-ifs in my life and feel more comfortable that I managed to get on the path I needed to be on. Grace in the rewrite is likely to be yet more of a composite, because even if my frustration and self-doubt about pursuing this girl is well-remembered, I simply can’t write a character based solely on someone I haven’t spoken to in seven years.