Welcome to the first of several posts detailing the inspiration behind some of the characters in my books.
Nellie Tryke is a character in my Traveling Society series and the only one whose full name was retained from my original Travel Club stories, which I wrote about here. The other girls in the series still have the same first name as before, but the last name is different. I’m not sure if Tryke is a real surname, but I thought it sounded too cool to throw away! (McIop, however, I tossed away like a dirty rag. That’s not an Irish surname! Same with Nevern. What was I thinking??)
When I thought of what Nellie might look like, I imagined Nellie as a tall (about six foot) blond with curly blond hair and dark eyes. Kind of like this:
When going into writing these stories, I wanted to make sure that above all, the character development and their personality are what drive the story. Many YA books I read at that age were all about romance. Those books didn’t interest me much. I preferred stories about regular girls like me who were at that weird transitional time between being a kid and being an adult and still trying to find themselves.
With Nellie, I knew that I wanted her to be an imposing figure. She likes to lead people and is always the first to suggest something. She can also come off as brash for those who don’t know her, since Nellie always says what’s on her mind. Since other people are intimidated of her because of her personality, I figured what better way to show off those character traits than by making her tall? In the original Travel Club stories, she was the club president (remember, I based the Travel Club on The Babysitter’s Club, hence the title). This time around, I retained Nellie’s personality, but instead of making her a president (since the girls aren’t in a formal “club” like in the original stories), I made her instead the so-called leader of the group, pretty much the glue that holds everyone together. Wherever they go, she is always prepared to help out and lead everyone. She always looks up places where they can go when the girls travel together (in Bienvenue, her phone is loaded down with a navigation app so that the girls will never get lost while walking around Paris) and has something fun in mind for everyone to do. She also thinks that she knows everything, but then again, doesn’t every teenager think that at some point? I know that I did! 😀
Something else that I thought of when I developed Nellie’s character was what does she like to do in her spare time? The most interesting literary characters, for me, are people who have many interests. Maybe those interests don’t always drive the story, but they are there. It’s something else for the character to do away from the main action! And, it’s more realistic.
I allude in Bienvenue to the girls having part-time jobs. Many of my high school students work at the mall or a local Starbucks. And I too had a job at their age during the summer. So I decided to have that in the background for my girls. Again, not something to drive the story, but it’s something else that keeps them occupied. Also, having a part-time job gives the girls spending money for their adventures.
Nellie, when she isn’t working at home or at the enrichment center with her friends, is a waitress at a local Mexican restaurant. I chose that job for her because I was a waitress at that age. I only lasted a month, however. My boss overheard me arguing with a customer over their order (they said they’d ordered one thing, I said they didn’t and thus implied that the customer was wrong. Ooops!). He told me he’d call me when he needed me. That was almost fifteen years ago. I’m still waiting for that call. 😛
Fortunately, Nellie has been able to hold down her job for longer than I ever did as a waitress!
Nellie’s interests in drawing and all things Sherlock were inspired by several of my students. These girls were always passionate about their love of art and British TV, and it meant that we sometimes got off topic in class during discussions, but I didn’t mind much. I teach small classes anyway, with less than ten students in a room. One of those students told me that she aspired to be an artist when she grew up. And she had a lot of talent, so much that I told her I wished I could draw as well as she did! Drawing is something that I’ve always wanted to better, but I just never have.
So when it came time to think of interests for my characters, I decided to use my students’ personalities as inspiration for Nellie and her interests. In a way, I’m living through Nellie because I’ve always wanted to be able to draw well but just haven’t ever taken the time to do it!
Of all the girls in the Traveling Society, Nellie is the one whose personality resembles me the least. Since Nellie is not like me at all, it’s a lot of fun for me to write from her perspective! I get to step outside of myself and act as someone completely different. And I think that’s half the fun of writing stories: getting into the minds of different kinds of people. 😀 Besides, if she were too much like me, it would be way too easy!
Tune in next time when I’ll be talking about another Traveling Society character, this time one who is very much like me: Lavinia Welch.