What Is The Inspiration for a Character in a Book?

What is the inspiration for a character when writing a book? Inspiration can take many forms and ends up providing the author with characters that can be used in the book being written.

Inspiration Helps Authors with Book Titles

What Inspires the Name of a Character?

When I first started thinking of ideas for my children’s book The Fairy Hollow Chronicles, I took inspiration from my own children to create the characters. My daughter loved fairies when she was very young so that provided me with the idea for four fairies. Adventures are always fun when you are a child so the idea that the fairies had to go on an adventure was born. Then, the names came easily as I chose names of her friends from elementary school.

Characters from the Fairy Hollow Chronicles – Christy, Katie, Megan & Lizzie

What Should Characters Wear?

Authors need to describe their characters. In The Fairy Hollow Chronicles, the four fairies are tiny so it was easy to have them dressed in ballerina tutus with their hair in buns. Ballerinas always wear buns. Young girls who take ballet enjoy wearing the tutus and having their hair in buns. The mayor in the book needed to be in a suit as he means business. The idea for the toad came from various stories I read as a child and also the toad character fits the mayor character perfectly.

My mother dining out with friends in Vancouver – What could they be talking about and how do they know each other?
Pages from The Fairy Hollow Chronicles
Pages from The Fairy Hollow Chronicles – Fairies dressed as ballerinas.

Photographs

Ideas for other books that I am writing came from photographs. Sometimes a photograph can inspire an author to write a story based on what might be happening in that photo. The photos from WW2 in England are an inspiration and ask me to write about what the young men and women in the photos are laughing about, worried about, thinking about and how the war affected them. As the daughter of parents who went through WW2, I am intrigued to include in my book these points to round out my characters.

My mother and her friend in 1935 – A photograph for inspiration – What is going on in this photo?

Inspiration is the Summary of Many Ideas

The inspiration for characters in a book comes from everything including family, friends, photos, artwork, current fashion, and the author’s imagination. By using all these ideas, the characters come to life which makes enjoyable reading for all of us.

Opportunities for Young Women in WW2 in England

Women today do not know how far we have come. It wasn’t that long ago that women were raised to get married and that was it. No career was to be considered. Not even university.

A Job in London


While researching my book Olive’s Obsession based on Olive working at the Beaver Club in London during the war, I have found that there were not many choices for young women. Olive, who in real life was my mother, went to Pitmans’ College in London to learn shorthand. She then went on to learn typing and worked as a secretary for such amazing companies as Quaker Oats and the EverReady Battery Company. The Ever Ready Battery Company got bombed during the war and very fortunately all the staff were gone as it was night time so no one lost their lives.

Life in London

Olive and her friend in London in WW2

My Mother always said that she was in London working but did not see a lot of war going on. She maybe said that so that we, my sister and I, growing up would not think she had suffered. They all suffered severely especially with the bomb shelters being in the tube at any hour when the alarm sounded. Also, the lack of food and rationing books that had to be presented when purchasing food. Everything was for the war effort.

Voluntary Work in the Red Cross

Volunteers in the Red Cross

What Were Your Opportunities?

As for the opportunities, you were either a teacher, nurse or secretary. You were expected to marry young otherwise you were considered an “old maid” which many dreaded. If you were a member of the aristocracy, then you were expected to marry high up. No career was in the cards for you. That explains why volunteer work became popular with the aristocracy as they were appearing to do good for the lower classes. The class system existed in Great Britain at the time.

Ladies Having Tea in London

I plan on researching about job opportunities in World War II for young women to find out what their lives were really like.

Debutante’s Lives in WW2

While researching information for my book Olive’s Obsession, I found a fabulous book called Debs at War: How War Changed Their Lives 1939-1945 by Anne de Courcy.

Debutantes

I was amazed to learn how little the debutantes knew about life. They had been sheltered for most of their young lives. Their main goal in life was to find a good match and marry very well. The higher up the better! Then war came along. Many had servants and maids who did everything for them. All of a sudden, they were thrust into the war effort. Some went into nursing, some worked for the Women’s Voluntary Association, some became pilots and some drove ambulances. One deb was asked what she knew about the gas tank. “It was full of oil and hair,” she replied. Her chauffeur had taught her this but instead of saying hair, he had said air! As for support from their parents, many didn’t dine with their mother or father until much older.

Debs in their evening dresses in 1939.

Life Influencers

The sole influence on their lives was Nanny. They learned all her mannerisms which carried them through life. They were challenged during the war to use skills they didn’t know they possessed.

Female pilots in WW2.

Chosen Paths

Imagine going into culture shock from your world where the lady’s maid looked after all your clothes to one where being inspected for head lice was routine. Some went on to Bletchley Park or became Land Girls. Most went into the Services – as FANYs, ATS, Wrens or WAAFs. The class barrier had existed in England but it dissolved under the love and war or continued on to in superiority to those less wealthy. No one was catering to them when they volunteered.

Character in Book

I will be having a debutante as one of the characters in my book. More details to come.

Characteristics of the Plot

What characteristics does the writer consider when deciding the characters in a plot? I plan on a future book based on my mother’s experiences in England during World War 2. I know there are a lot of books written about women and the war. However, my mother did something unique. She volunteered in London at the Beaver Club. This was a place where Canadian soldiers could come to get sandwiches, coffee, new socks and maps to get around London while on leave. Of course, I won’t be calling the book The Beaver Club for obvious reasons. The working title is The Maple Leaf Club. The Club had various women volunteering there mainly with the food preparation and serving. Many of the women have long since passed away and perhaps their sons and daughters didn’t know much about it. The book I plan to write includes a murder in the Club and the life of Olive, the main character, who works as a secretary for a British firm and really wants to start a new life in Canada.

Research is required for this book. The photos I have of my Mother are helpful and the reunion photo is amazing. Many ladies fit into one large photo but all in black and white. I once asked my mother if she had dated anyone at the club. She replied, “Oh no, not me. I was too shy!”

What stands out in this story is the selflessness of the women who volunteered their time to work in the Beaver Club in London in the middle of the war. Life in wartime London was tough enough but these ladies volunteered their time to help Canadians. I’m looking forward to researching this book and learning what my mother experienced during the war.

Inspection Reports

As a public health inspector, I remember waiting for the restaurant manager to discuss the inspection report based on my visit to the foodservice operation. I had been writing my report by hand. In those days, reports were handwritten noting any deficiencies which required correction. A voice suddenly interrupted my train of thought, “I wasn’t expecting a woman!”. This came from the manager of the restaurant. He was shocked that a woman could do the job.  My reply was “You never had it so good!”. Now in 2021, many years later, those words are the working title of my next book which will be a memoir on my experiences as a female public health inspector.

When I began my first position in Medicine Hat, Alberta, there had not been another public health inspector hired for 20 years. I was described by one of the inspectors as “a bright light”. I didn’t walk around plugged in all the time but I did bring a new perspective on getting the job done. The secretary was impressed to have a female around the office. She told me that a new broom sweeps clean. Another inspector, who also had been with the unit for 20 years, was not pleased to have a female inspector on the job. I might have shown him up as he hadn’t done much work for many years.

There was definitely lots of work to be done. Restaurants hadn’t been inspected, small towns had been neglected, grocery stores and hotels had not had follow-up inspections. One of my restaurant managers in a small town called Bow River reminded me that I was tough. “Your reputation has preceded you!” she said. Her restaurant had many violations but she and her staff did co-operate and clean up. It was wonderful to have food operations running in compliance compared which protected the health of the population.  Also, the general public noticed the improvement in foodservice operations when dining out and phoned in compliments to the Health Unit.