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Author Kristopher Rufty on "Creating Characters"

May 12, 2012

Tags: Kristopher Rufty, Angel Board, writing, characters, horror

"Creating Characters"
By Kristopher Rufty

Other than being asked where my ideas come from, one thing I’m asked a lot is: “Am I in your book?” or “Was the character ________ based off of you?” Most of the time the answer is No, but there have been instances where I’ve borrowed from real life and turned them into fantasy. I’m sure I’ll do it again, many times, as well.

Back when I penned the first draft of Angel Board I was working as a manager for Office Depot. So, during the plotting stages I decided early on that David, the main character, would also be an office supply manager for a chain of stores known as Office Warehouse. While working for the Depot we hired an employee by the name of Dane, who later became a dear friend of mine, and also made his way into the book as the character of Martin. The baler wire incident that occurs in the book was a sensationalized account of what happened to me while making a cardboard bale. The wire snapped and lashed at my face, and if I wouldn’t have jumped backwards, the tip might have gotten me. I felt the wind on my eye as the wire just missed plucking it right out of my head.

Actually, the baler incident was what inspired all of Angel Board. It started with that one scene and everything else branched from there.

My recent release, PillowFace, is also very loosely based on fact. I took myself as a twelve year old kid and put him in today’s world. It was kind of fun imagining me as a kid and being surrounded by the technology we have today. When I was growing up, Cable TV and VHS were changing the world. Watching horror movies on Cinemax during their Full Moon Fridays series was a crucial part of my growing up, and as I began writing the book, I learned there is nothing like that out there now. The closest we have to Full Moon Friday today is Fearnet and Chiller. VHS has already become American nostalgia and Cable TV is ridiculously priced.

But, growing up in the sticks, and without internet, what I didn’t have in technology, I made for with imagination. My friends Chad and Eric (two guys that lived in the same vicinity as me) and I would spend our summers in the woods, hiking to a public pool that was located two roads over from my house. Instead of having our parents drive us, we walked on our own, and the best part was our parents didn’t mind. We were so isolated that the fear someone might be lurking in the shadows, waiting to snatch up your kids was absent. We stuck to the trail. It was an hour or more hike but we enjoyed every step of it.

The biggest worry we had were snakes. There were a lot of snakes where I grew up.

On our trips to the pool, and just our time spent in the woods riding dirt bikes, hiking the trails, and just being kids, we’d have some of the goofiest conversations, much like the trio of kids in PillowFace. Talking about horror movies, girls, and porno mags that we one day wanted to score, we’d travel the woods, searching for whatever we might find. The scarier, the better. And of course, we were not above the secluded wood nymph that might be hiding in the trees. In fact, we were driven by the possibility of finding some kind of beautiful forest woman who may be able to grant our wishes.

Well…I was anyway. I don’t believe I ever shared that vision with my friends.

So, taking such aspects of my childhood, the character Joel Olsen was born. A twelve year old horror fan with the dream of one day being a special effects artist. Although I was raised with two parents for the majority of my childhood, they did eventually divorce in my early teenage years. And while they were together, they both worked when I was old enough to be left home alone during the summers until around four o’clock. I’d have the whole day to myself while my sister was at summer daycare. In the book, Joel has lost his parents in a car accident and is being raised by Haley, his twenty-three year old sister. She’s just starting her career path and is now forced to become not just Joel’s older sister, but also his parent. She doesn’t cope well, and Joel spends a lot of time home alone as well.

And for Joel…that isn’t a good thing.

While my parents would be working I’d spend the majority of my time playing guitar or clacking away on a typewriter that weighed close to forty pounds (no lie) the adventures I wished I could take in real life.

And as grotesque as it is, PillowFace is one of those adventures. When I set out to write the book I asked myself: “What would have happened if I would have discovered someone like PillowFace when I was twelve years old?”

Not knowing the answer, I sat down to write PillowFace, and the book escalated from there. What I learned is a twelve year old can make awful decisions on his own.

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Kristopher Rufty wrote and directed the movies Psycho Holocaust, Rags, and Wicked Wood, and is also the author of Angel Board, PillowFace and The Lurkers. He also hosts Diabolical Radio, an internet radio show devoted to horror fiction and film. The show has been online for nearly five years now and has developed quite an archive list and following. He is married to his high school sweetheart and is the father of two insane children that he loves dearly, and together they reside in North Carolina with their 120 pound dog Thor and a horde of cats. He is currently working on his next novel, script, or movie.

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