Where did Carrie come from?

The features editor of a state-wide Arkansas newspaper asked me yesterday where Carrie McCrite, the major character in my “To Die For” novels, came from.  I answered with the same words I have used when confronted with this question before:

“I don’t know.  I wish I did.  She just appeared.”

Sounds pretty inadequate.

This time I kept thinking about the question, and was finally able to write the editor as follows:

“I have decided Carrie is the exemplification of characteristics I admire in women:

“Intelligence.  A sense of adventure.  Gutsiness.  (Whether or not that’s a word.)  Ability to cope without male back-up (or a large amount of physical strength).  Compassion and–most definitely–love.  Empathy with fellow humans.  Fierce determination and a ‘can-do’ personality when faced with terrible circumstances and/or danger.  The hint of a feeling she could help save the world if only anyone would give her the chance.  All of this combined with a sometimes well-hidden gentleness.

“Negatives include a tendency to rush in ‘where angels fear…’  Bossiness.  Stubbornness.

“Her favorite coffee mug is one her son Rob gave her.  It says ‘Mom for President.’   She has a t-shirt to match.”


I went on to think about Henry King, now Carrie’s husband.

“He’s in awe of Carrie but hides it well.  A tough cop with softness inside.  A man who is working through past trauma.  Strong sense of duty and a responsibility to protect others, especially those he loves most.  Tremendous intelligence and a quick awareness of human foibles, and this has marred his life, leading to excessive fear for the safety of his loved ones.”


I guess I know these people pretty well, even if I still can’t identify a moment or a process by which they appeared.    Oh, I have long known about their  childhoods, their parents, and so much more.  But…where, inside me, they sprang from?  I still don’t have the complete answer.


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8 Responses to “Where did Carrie come from?”

  1. Pat Batta Says:

    I also do not know where my characters in the Marge Christensen series came from, which is hard to explain at book signings. They are certainly not based on me or anyone I know — I just remember that Marge had to be a young middle age and there had to be a reason for her to get involved with solving a murder. Once the characters were on paper, they seemed to reveal their personalities as I wrote, and I only intervened if I needed to show the readers something the characters obviously hadn’t thought about.

    Now that I’m starting a new series set in Michigan, I’m trying to be a lot smarter about everything I’m doing, but right away my three main characters started changing who I thought they were. My question is how do you keep control of these headstrong beasts?

    • radine Says:

      Pat, this sounds so much like my experience…we truly are a COMMUNITY of authors. (Not that I expect everyone to have had similar experiences to mine, but it’s still nice to realize there are those who have shared them so closely.) I am now eager to read your books. Thanks for writing.

  2. Marilyn Meredith Says:

    I pretty much know where Tempe comes from, she’s a composite of three women, and her name came from my great-grandmother. Today, though, she’s as real as any other woman in my life.

    Your blog is great–sounds just like you!


  3. Mari Sloan Says:

    I’m not sure whether it is so much that authors don’t know, as that they do, and particularly in the case of villains, they would rather not reveal the person that created that character in their head.

    I was an volunteer night and weekend Domestic Violence Shelter director for three years, and my avenging spirit in “Beaufort Falls,” Eliza, is a composite of many of the young mothers who came through the shelter doors. She is an expression of hope for them in that they faced tremendous violence every day, and their determination and courage is reflected in that character. Other characters are also people I have known, acting out the outer limits of what they may have been capable.

    • radine Says:

      Mari…I have close personal experience with domestic violence (from childhood) and have remained close to the work of a woman’s (and children’s) shelter here. How wonderful that you are writing about this. Socially conscious stories interest me especially.

  4. Irene Black Says:

    The nine Young brothers are not my creation, but my husband’s along with the basic thread of their history as a family. He says he just wrote them out one day while watching the History channel. They laid in my desk drawer for over three years before I took them out for another look. Then I did the fleshing-out as to names, birth dates, etc.
    Other characters in the books. One afternoon I put each name in the middle of a sheet of paper, then started making connections, notes about, family, relatives, history around their names with different colored inks. I still have those pages and over the years the details may have changed, but not the basics.
    Where did the come from like everyone else, “they just popped and demanded attention.”

    • radine Says:

      Irene, that’s one of the most interesting stories about character origin I could imagine…as you and your husband did. Thanks so much for sharing. Isn’t this fun!

  5. Radine Says:

    Ah ha, yes, Tempe is one of the characters who’s origin I did know, and I had heard straight from you during the developing friendship we have enjoyed at conventions like Mayhem in the Midlands and through the Internet! Therefore we are close enough for you to understand, and say “sounds like you.” Thank you, dear friend.

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