Getting Real with Alexi LAWLESS

I’ve been asked several times who my favorite character is in Complicated Creatures. Is this where writers are supposed to say, “I love all my babies equally?” Because that’s how I feel to some extent. If I wrote the character, I thought about her or him and deemed that the character was worth the word count to create for the express purpose of interaction and to move the story forward. Ergo, each character in the book has tremendous value.

I’ve been asked, “Are you Sam?”

Oh, Hell, No.

Is the Vampire Lestat Anne Rice just because she imagined him?

I do think all characters are somewhat autobiographical since they’re born from the dark imaginings of a writer’s mind, but the closest I’d say Sam is to me is that she’s got some snarky one-liners that would absolutely come out of my mouth.

Now, do I base certain aspects of characters off of people I know? Oh, yes. Carey, Mitch, and Willa in particular are modeled off of real folks to some extent, though this is a work of fiction, and names/physical descriptions vary radically in order to protect the “innocent.”

Similar to the “who is your favorite character” question, I don’t think about my characters in a love ‘em or hate ‘em way. The key here is they must be interesting and bring something to the story. Otherwise, why bother? I’m not interested in wasting words anymore than you are interested in reading a story about mediocre characters with “meh” dialogue and unclear motives & intentions.

Now, are there some characters that are harder to write? Absolutely. I really struggled with the third major character in the book, because I couldn’t visualize him clearly in my head. When I wrote his character sheet, I had a lot of conflicting personality traits and his motives were unclear even to me. So what did I do? I stopped writing. When in doubt, consume a libation and take a break. That’s a trusted go-to.

I didn’t want to read someone else’s work while I was having trouble writing my own, so I ended up surfing around for the “best-written TV shows” according to the Writer’s Guild of America, and stumbled upon Friday Night Lights. I hadn’t loved the movie when it came out years ago, so I’d discounted the series. I decided to give it a try. After all, I already had a cold beer in my hand and football season hadn’t started yet. I was in Asia and feeling a little homesick for some good old-fashioned Americana, and I ask you, “What’s more American than high school football”? I watched episode one of the first season, saw Timothy Riggins’ character calling out, “Texas forever,” and BAM! There’s the third character I couldn’t figure out an hour earlier.

Moral of the story?

  • I don’t mess around with writing characters I don’t like. They each serve a purpose and they have to be interesting to earn space on the page and your time and attention as the reader.
  • When in doubt, drink. (Okay, I didn’t say get schlitzed–but you can use “drink” as a euphemism for “take a break” if it’s not your particular vice).
  • Character inspiration comes from some unexpected places once you let go long enough to let it happen.

If you want to know more about my approach to writing, feel free to check out the LAWLESS Rules for Writing Like a BOSS.

about Alexi


Corporate Runaway. Novelist. Wanderer. Bourbon Drinker.

Alexi LAWLESS has been a closeted writer for thirty-odd years—from way back when she was banging out stories on a Commodore 64 to her years writing the corporate strategies for some of the largest companies in the world. But it was two years ago, laid up after foot surgery, that she started to seriously consider whether it was time to come out as the novelist she’d always wanted to be.

Armed with a laptop and an around-the-world ticket, she quit the corporate scene and set out to see if her passion for writing was more than a pipe-dream. Less than a year later, Alexi’s debuting her first published novel, Complicated Creatures: Part One, with the second book due out this summer. And while you may catch her sipping a drink in Miami Beach, you’re more likely to find her indulging her nomadic tendencies somewhere in Latin America or Southeast Asia.

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