Peggy Bechko: Grandpa Was A Character – A Writer’s Inspiration

by Peggy Bechko

NIGHT OF THE FLAMING GUNSI have spent a bit of time recently reflecting on my early beginnings as a writer and the transformation that has happened over the years. Life is change after all and nothing ever stays the same.

Currently I write a lot of things. Novels, screen scripts, commercial copy, and pretty much anything that comes my way that sparks my interest. I’ve published with major houses, optioned scripts and done some self-publishing.

But, what I’m centering on here is my beginnings; that which brought me to this point.

When I look back it’s rather amusing, that very first jump and accomplishment. I’d started writing when I was about fourteen and just enjoyed creating other worlds but knew right away it was something I wanted to do for real, for publication, for a career.

What was that very first jump? It was a western novel titled Night Of The Flaming Guns, published when I was twenty-two .

That was waaay back and is still available used through Amazon.

But here’s the thing, how exactly did that book, published originally by Doubleday come to be? There was a whole lot of weirdness connected with its actual publication. The Cliff’s Notes version is an agent had it, went defunct. While I panicked another agent had picked it up and had an offer from Doubleday. I got the offer, I accepted, then the publisher decided we had to go with my initials as author (P.A. Bechko) since I was writing a gritty western in the first person as a middle-aged man and I was a twenty-something young woman. Sure rattled my editor at that time.

Anyway, I was off, that was the first of sixteen books so far. But what inspired the writing of that particular original book?

If you’re another writer or reader and curious about such things, let me tell you. It was two things that tripped my writer’s imagination.

  1. A dear friend (male) dared me to write a gritty western, because I suspect, I WAS a young, fairly shy woman. Hey, what he didn’t know was that was a great way for me to utilize my love for the west and let go of a lot of frustrations. Heck I could shoot people at will on the printed page and let the hero win. Whohoo!
  1. The second, and most important inspiration for writing that first western novel was my grandfather. Yep, my grandfather IS the hero of the book. He is long departed and much missed, but he was the original inspiration and hero. Not because I made the hero look like him, but because Grandpa possessed the strength, determination, compassion and down-to-earth, get-it-done attitude coupled with some pretty deep philosophical outlooks on life that completed that character. You go Grandpa! An incredibly intelligent, profound man who made it through the depression doing any job he had to for his family, held a hand out to those less fortunate, participated in a few brawls in his youth, and always had a wonderful and sometimes twisted sense of humor. All of that made up the core of the hero, Matt Logan in that book.

Not every bit of my grandfather is visible in the tale that is told, but those characteristics are at the hero’s core and they are what drive him to do what he does.

That was the first with many others following. And today, while not ALL my characters are based directly on life, there are many of them that are bits and pieces of friends and relatives I’ve known throughout my life (I’m not going to name any more of them here). I suspect that’s true of pretty much all writers. You can’t create characters without stealing bits and pieces you love of family and friends. Even bits and pieces you hate (another place I won’t name names).

And while most characters I create are made up of various parts of people I’ve crossed paths with, the original book, the original inspiration. was quite simply Grandpa.

So, tell me, what characters have you, as a writer, created based on someone in particular? Do you still see them in that character now that the story is written? Comment below, I’d be fascinated to know.

Peggy Bechko is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™. You can learn more about her HERE.