What Moves Your Characters?

Before you start writing your comment about what “moves” your characters let me stop you. That is NOT what I’m talking about. And frankly, I’m not even interested in that topic because I’m sure most of you have read my rant on all the people who claim to be so “moved” by books and all that junk. Yeah…don’t get me started.

Anyway, I am talking about what your characters actually get around in, what they drive. I can’t tell you what hardly any of my favorite characters drive. I know Harry Bosch mostly gets around in an unmarked LAPD Police Interceptor. These are the black cars with the spotlight in the front that you see driving around every once in awhile. They probably remind you of a Crown Victoria, but they’re not. For future reference, there could very well be a police detective in there. I know Kinsey Millhone used to drive an old Volkwagon Beetle. But she also used to walk from place to place quite a bit. I know at least one of my favorite characters drives around in an old Chevy Nova, but I have no idea who it is. The point I’m making is that in my reading experience the vehicles of the characters in the story have not been a big deal.

I can of course tell you what cars I’ve mentioned in my writing. My protagonist drives what he often refers to as an “old Mitsubishi.” Sydney drives a BMW. There have been a couple other cars mentioned, but none that the reader was ever in.

I’m just thinking about how much thought writers put into what their characters drive. I mean, I know just about every choice a writer makes is calculated and made for some reason, but I’m thinking there is a long list of things that would come before trying to decide what make and model car your MC should have. You all should definitely know by now that my character is me, and I bet you’d guess that I gave him my car. That was all the thought I put into what he drives. Although in my second book, which is indefinitely on the backburner, I gave a young, attractive, intelligent lawyer a car that’s something of status symbol. So eh, maybe I think about it more than I know.

Tell me about you and your characters. What do they drive and how do you make such a decision?

This post was inspired by the fact that I just got a new car yesterday! I had my first car since just before the start of my senior year in high school and it was definitely time for a change.

This was my first car.

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This is my new one.

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30 thoughts on “What Moves Your Characters?

  1. I’d like to disagree with you on several things you wrote, but I know that’s just your view. Next time, could you please not refer to being ‘moved’ by books as junk? That seems like something very un-author-like to say…

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  2. Like you, I didn’t think I put a whole lot of thought into my MC’s car, but actually realized I kinda did. She drives a slightly used Honda. Primarily because she lives in Long Beach, CA so a foreign car was a must. Also, because Honda’s are practical and safe, two qualities my MC holds in high esteem. I put one of her love interests in a jeep wrangler (sturdy, surburban, oddly driven by someone that’s not very adventerous and has never been off-road) and the other in a BMW (obvious status symbol of success and alpha male dominance). So yeah, I think cars matter when fleshing out a character. Congrats on the new car!

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  3. 1926 White Rolls Royce is one of the character’s cars….he comes from a wealthy southern family and he has recently inherited millions.

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  4. My hero character drives a 102-gun, ion propulsion drive Hunter class frigate and could get to the moon in about 10 minutes. Does that count?

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  5. Both your real-life cars are very cute!

    I don’t put much thought into what the characters drive, at least nothing more than “rich people have pricy cars, etc.” Although, my current protagnoists use an automated train system that’s a bit interesting to me.

    Also, I’ve always wanted to write a car chase with a hearse. Too bad Terminator 3 beat me to it.

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  6. Until seeing your post I hadn’t even considered what my character drives. I hadn’t even considered whether or not he’d have passed his test! So thanks for reminding me. But you’re right – there’s so many more significant things to think about!

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  7. All of my characters get around via horse-drawn carriages, trains, horseback, foot, etc… 1888,lol.

    I do believe , however, that vehicles matter. They can convey so much of your character, who you are.

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  8. Sweet ride! I like it!

    My MG fantasy books have no car travel in them, but they do travel by other cool means.

    For my non-MG books, I don’t mention cars that much unless it’s really important. I have one character who’s very tall and hates little sports cars, so he rants about the waste of money on them from his perspective. And he drives a large Jeep and an Audi Q7. I live in Detroit. We’re car central up here. But I only mention them once or twice, never more than that.

    Other than that, the cars are rarely mentioned except to say, “they hopped in the car and drove off” or something like that.

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  9. My character Ben drives a bright yellow Maserati GranCabrio. He’s wealthy, obviously, but he’s ostentatious– a bit of an attention whore, you could say. His parents are always away on business, so he gets attention wherever he can.

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  10. Mine drives around in a Volvo hatch that’s about 7 years old. It was really just so that I could use the stereotype about old, slow drivers wearing hats…well that’s a stereotype here in Australia anyway…She is neither old or slow, she was just wearing a hat..now why did I write that line?

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  11. Okay, first off. What is your new car? I HAVE to know because that is a seriously cool car. And I think it would work great with one of my characters.
    As per what they drive. Well, most of my guys end up driving pickups or one has a motorcycle. One, who is a hotel owner does have a fancy Audi a la Jason Statham of the Transporter series. One girl owns a Mini Cooper dark blue with racing stripes. One I’m considering drives a Vespa, but haven’t committed yet. Oh! One of my guys drives a Ford Cobra…. not a replica but an actual Ford Cobra, which is like one of the priciest cars around. I’m thinking I need to change that because he’s a book publisher. Who drives something that flashy if they are a book publisher?
    As for how I pick? Well I guess it all depends on what kind of person the character is. What makes them tick. I really try to work on back story for my characters so that the car fits the person.

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    • Thanks! It’s a 2014 Hyundai Veloster.

      I definitely like your cars! Except for maybe the publisher guy, he’s a little over the top. Haha maybe I should put more thought into mine.

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      • No, I totally agree that my publisher guy is over the top and I’ll probably change it. It’s just too ridiculous in the scope of price and such. see, when I wrote about him, I didn’t know that the Cobra was such a rare car. I like the Mercedes SLS or a Jaguar E type from the 60’s…. Choices, choices. And reality. 😛

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  12. Pingback: Jennifer Lawrence Loves Reading | Write me a book, John!

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