Where do you find inspiration for your characters? Is it from watching television or movies? Maybe listening to a podcast or audiobook?
Okay, so I’ve got a thing for a pair of demon-hunting brothers that wear flannel, drive around in a classic car and swig too much booze. Vampires, werewolves, ghouls, ghosts, demons, angels, gods, monsters…yeah, I’ve been on a Supernatural binge-watching kick. At least once a year I start back over at the very first episode and work my way through 15 seasons of this television show. Right now, as I work on migrating websites at my regular 9-to-5 I’m listening to it. I’ve managed to make it to the middle of Season 2 in the course of a week.
Geez, Beth, shouldn’t you be doing something besides watching Supernatural? Like…writing?
Well, yeah. But here’s the thing: when I get into one of these moods, I find wiring inspiration. I wind up with a rough manuscript outline. Every. Single. Time.
And for those of you that say binge-watching, or in my case at the moment, binge-listening, is bad for you, think again. When you binge-watch a television show that you enjoy, it makes you happy and when you’re happy, your brain produces dopamine, a chemical in our bodies that gives us a drug-like high of happiness. Read the articles about it. Be happy. Seriously.
For me, it’s like hanging out with old friends. Sam and Dean Winchester are a fictional family to me. I’m invested in their story, whether they live or die, stop the apocalypse, fall in love, etc. So to binge-listen while I’m working or writing is comforting. Their voices are familiar. The sound of the ’67 Chevy Impala driving is soothing. Hearing Bobby say, “Idjits!” makes me smile.
Most of all, I find inspiration. I happen to have a major celebrity crush on Jensen Ackles who plays Dean Winchester. As a writer, binge-watching, listening, whatever, helps me study him as an actor so that I can describe the characters in my head that suspiciously look like him to the best of my abilities. Now, I am well aware that you may envision my characters totally different than I do. I’d be worried if you didn’t. But writers take their inspiration in a lot of different places. Right now, I’m taking my inspiration from this Texas-born actor. Jensen, if you’re reading this, we need to talk!
Character development from my inspired source
Right now, I have one complete rough draft manuscript and two in-progress manuscripts inspired by Jensen. The three characters are very different, drawing inspiration from different seasons of the show, one actually drawing inspiration from Jensen himself as a singer. Let me introduce you to the boys to show you how one television show and actor has inspired three characters.
Inspiration #1: Drew Masters, When Demons Take Hold
Drew is my cowboy. He embodies the caring and gentle side of Dean Winchester that we get glimpses of on the show. Don’t let that fool you, though. Drew is a scrapper as well and dishes out as good as he gets, especially when his family is threatened. Here is a peak of Drew from Chapter Two.
Drew grinned and poked Jo. “I told you she’d come down for dinner.” He wiped his hands on the dishtowel that had been lying next to him on the counter and turned to the cabinet. He pulled out three plates and bowls and handed them to Kaidance. “Set the table? You know where the forks and knives are.”
Kaidance quickly grabbed the dinnerware before it could drop to the floor between them and looked at Drew. From the back, the black t-shirt he was wearing stretched tight over his back under the apron ties and his jeans hugged his behind and legs like a second skin. Her eyes widened when he turned around and she couldn’t help the smile that tilted her lips at the sight of a very feminine apron he was wearing. “Testing your masculinity there, Drew?” she teased.
“He’s trying to start a new trend in men’s kitchen wear,” Jo quipped as she set a bowl of spinach salad on the table. “You know how he is. Fashion trendsetter.”
Kaidance chuffed as she set the plates out. “Oh, that’s right. This was the man who made it cool to wear gym shorts, a tank top, and a pair of Justin cowboy boots popular during his junior year in high school.”
Drew turned away from stirring the pot of sauce and looked at them, his arms held wide, sauce dripping from the spoon in his hand onto the floor. “C’mon. That was like…what, twenty-some-odd years ago? Someone stole my clothes.” He looked at them for a moment. Kaidance had frozen, her hand on a bowl and a look on her face that clearly told him she still didn’t believe his clothing had been stolen. Jo had propped her hands on her hips with a similar expression. “That’s cold.” He turned back to his cooking. He gave a mock sniff of hurt. “I…I see how it is.”
Kaidance looked at him. “Oh my god, you are so…” She couldn’t find the word she wanted as he turned his head slightly to look at her over his shoulder. His lips twitched as he tried not to smile. She watched the line of his jaw move under the two days’ growth that was distinctly tinged with red. She swallowed hard and went back to setting the table.
Drew is a bit sassy with a wonderful sense of humor. He’s also intelligent, strong, and masculine. He is the hero in every sense of the word and a good match for Kaidance, a retired Army Captain who served in Afghanistan and is now suffering from PTSD. I would love to see Drew with his gentleness, combined with his good attitude and patience, brought to life by Jensen on television or on the big screen.
Inspiration #2: Mitchell Steed, The Collaborative: Wounded
Mitchell Steed is for all the Destiel fans out there, but primarily for my niece Kathryn. He is, in his own way, a bit of Sam Winchester as well when it comes to doing stuff on a computer. Mitch is an undercover agent in this series about an international collaborative that takes on the jobs the other spy agencies won’t. He’s a dead shot, can read computer code like nobody’s business, and prefers to live as far from the city as he can. After all, he’s always dealing with technology on the job. When he’s at home, the only thing that he plays is the radio.
He’s also the first openly gay character I’ve ever written. His partner, Casey, looks suspiciously like Misha Collins, aka Castiel. Here’s a flashback scene from Chapter Seven.
Mitch had his back to Casey and his t-shirt was thrown over the small pile of wood that he had already split and stacked. There were two wheelbarrows sitting near him with the large logs Casey had cut and Mitch was simply doing what needed to be done. The muscles of his back rippled as he swung the ax up and over his head, bringing it down in one fluid motion. The wood stuck to the ax and he tapped it on the block to finish cutting it. He tossed the two pieces aside onto the pile to be stacked and did it again.
Casey was enthralled. Mitch was a former NASA engineer Brinkman had recruited after the cutbacks the agency suffered from the Columbia disaster. The kid had a head for numbers, an uncanny way of understanding computer code and programming that simply blew Casey’s mind. He was the perfect addition to the Collaborative’s logistic and development division and he complimented Casey’s own computer skills. He didn’t expect him to be this outdoors type that had no problem splitting wood with a swing of an ax. His mouth went dry as he watched, his body tightening unexpectedly.
Mitch had no idea how long Casey had been watching him, but he set the ax in the stump and picked up the bottle of water he had close by. He took a drink and poured some over his head to cool off. He had no idea how long they were going to do this, how long they were going to dance around the subject. The way Casey was looking at him right now was enough to convince Mitch that now was as good a time as any to switch up the dance. He was tired of waltzing. He wanted to tango. “You okay?” he asked as he slowly walked towards Casey. Mitch watched him swallow hard.
Casey nodded. “Yeah. I just…I was taking a break.”
“Uh-huh. A break. And that break included watching me sweat and chop wood, huh?”
Casey didn’t know what to say or how to answer. “I thought maybe you’d…want a beer. I didn’t want to distract you.”
Mitch nodded and fisted his hand in Casey’s t-shirt. “Trust me, you’re not distracting me,” he answered before pulling Casey’s lips towards his. He’d been working with Casey for two years now and the last six months had been the worst. It was there. It was right there and they both knew it but Casey wouldn’t let go. Mitch wasn’t beyond giving him a little push. He coaxed Casey’s mouth open and took what he wanted for once. And he was so glad he did. He ended the kiss and looked at the other man. Casey stood there, eyes closed. Mitch smiled. “You know that tree isn’t going to stack itself,” he whispered before letting go of Casey’s shirt. “You still want that beer? I know I need one.”
Breath, my Destiel fans, breathe. Mitchell is the Dean Winchester that looks at Castiel like he’s the best thing on Earth – better than pie! – even though Dean isn’t ready to cross that line. He’s the one that will take a bullet for the person he loves the most without blinking an eye and then hunts down the son-of-a-bitch that shot at them in the first place. Passionate, rugged, intelligent…Mitchell is one of my favorite agents and no one but Jensen could play him.
Inspiration #3: Brayden Womack, A Simple Kind of Man
The character of Brayden Womack isn’t actually inspired by Jensen’s performance as Dean Winchester. The character was inspired by Jensen himself. The first time I heard his rendition of “Simple Kind of Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, my heart started pounding and my mouth went dry. His voice is like fine whiskey and I can understand why the SPN fans go nuts when they get to see him perform live at the conventions. Brayden is a smart-ass, stubborn, bored singer who walks away from his hot music career. His manager sends him on a vacation to recharge and he winds up falling in love. Here’s a peek at Brayden. I haven’t fleshed out this story very much, but I’m working on it.
“That’s it, man. That’s it. Give me your phone, your tablet, all your electronics. Your ass needs a break.” Kennedy wiggled his fingers at Brayden from behind his desk at the offices of JKC Productions as the singer walked into the room. Gold and Platinum records hung along the wall to Brayden’s right, some of them the ones he had been awarded.
“A break from what” Brayden plopped down in the leather chair that faced Kennedy’s desk.
“Touring. Singing. Being a total douchebag.” He was still holding out his hand.
“I’m not a douchebag, thank you.” Brayden stared at him like he had lost his mind. The look on Kennedy’s face was enough to make him swallow the comment he was about to make. “You’re serious.”
“Serious as a heart attack.” Kennedy handed Brayden an airline ticket and then lifted his acoustic guitar over the desk, sliding the instrument in its case to the star. “That’s all you get besides clothing and I’m tempted to pack that for you too to make sure you’re not sneaking shit to my cousins. Cause that’s where you’re going and staying until you un-douchebag yourself.” He leaned his hands on the desk, his eyes boring into Brayden.
“Your cousins.” Brayden looked at the tickets in his hand before scrambling to get his guitar case before the other man pushed it completely off the desk. “Hey. Easy with the guitars, man.”
“Yes. Jessie is out of the country on vacation and she needed someone to watch the ranch. You, my musically-inclined friend, are spending the next month in Cloudcroft, New Mexico with no phone, no computer, no tablet, no nothing. I expect you to come back well-grounded, untouched, and with a slew of new songs for the studio.” He sat down in his chair. He propped his hands behind his head, his feet on the corner of the desk, and waited for it.
“I’m not going to New Mexico.” Brayden shook his head. “No way. I’m not going to bum fuck nowhere, New Mexico. I’ll go home to Austin, but I’m not going to New Mexico.” He tossed the airline tickets back to Kennedy.
Kennedy simply smiled and rolled his head towards his friend. “Oh yes you are or you’re finding a new label and new manager.”
Brayden’s face paled. “You wouldn’t.”
Brayden is going to find himself with his toes in the sand teaching Jessie a lesson on how to live life away from her corporate office. Jessie is going to remind Brayden why he enjoys making music. Yeah, I know, it’s a bit cliché but I’m working on it.
Take your inspiration and run with it
Since I’m getting set to plow into Season…whatever, who knows who else might pop into my head demanding attention. The muses can be very demanding and we do tend to be slaves to their voices at times. I may wind up with a true blue Dean Winchester character before I get to Season 15. If that happens, I’ll have my hands full.
For now, I’m going to work with Drew and Kaidance. My love of horses also shows up in this book. I can think of nothing better than combining that with my Jensen Ackles-inspired characters. Have you seen this man in a cowboy hat and three-day scruff? Humana, Humana.
No matter, whether it’s binge-watching your favorite shows, watching the same movie over and over, do what it takes to inspire your writing. Inspiration comes in all forms, not just from a television show. It can be in the form of music, a pastime, a hobby, people watching…it doesn’t matter. What works for you may not work for someone else. I’ve always been inspired by different actors that I’ve loved (Richard Armitage, Max Brown, Henry Cavill, Clive Standen, Johnny Depp…the list goes on) or television and movies that resonate with me. It works for me.
Take your inspiration and run with it. You do you…and make it awesome.
I’m going to go back to binge-listening Supernatural. I think Lucifer is about to make an appearance.
All story snippets Copyright 2021, Beth A. Freely
All photos of Jensen Ackles copyright to the photographer.