In a different life, I used to sing on the worship team at my church. There were four of us and we had microphones to lead the music along with two guitars, a bass, drums and a keyboard. We totally rocked it out (haha, seriously!) One year I was having a lot of sinus issues and laryngitis and wasn't really able to sing well and I remarked to the alto that I felt superfluous. She said that if nothing else I was serving as "eye candy" and was definitely appreciated by the congregation, vocals aside.
"Eye candy" can be a wonderful thing. I love to people watch, so it's no wonder that when I go to my gym that I select an elliptical overlooking the free weight area so I can ogle the men while they lift. It's a very effective means of lessening the pain and repetition of a workout. About a year ago my attentions were drawn to one particular man. He was nearly 6 feet tall, short brown hair, piercing blue eyes, and arms to die for.
When I began writing Mountains Wanted, I knew that James was going to be patterned on my lover, but I decided very early on that I didn't want him to have the same physical characteristics, the same as Sarah does not look like me. As much as James and Sarah are us, I wanted them to be their own "people" too. I wanted them to come alive in my mind as distinct from myself and from my lover. While working out one day and studying my favorite "eye candy" I realized that he would be the perfect physical model for James.
Every time I went to the gym, he seemed to be there. It didn't matter what time of day or which day of the week. I studied how he interacted with people, his smile, his gestures, his posture. I watched his muscles flex as he pumped iron; I watched his face tense with the exertion. He was James. I even called him James. I'd text my lover and say "James is here today. Looking good."
I blogged about him too. My blog readers encouraged me to speak to him, to introduce myself. I could never quite muster the courage to do it. What was I going to say, "Hi, sorry I keep staring but you look exactly like the main character in the novel I'm writing!" Would he be flattered or think I belonged in the psycho ward?
It's been a couple of months now since I last saw him. I don't know if he switched gyms or moved or if he's just going at a different time than me. I miss him. There's other eye candy but he's the one and only James.
What would you think if you found out you were an author's mental model for a character?