Creating Jake: My inspiration, Readers Imagination

Sam ElliottSam Elliott is the epitome of the cowboy persona he’s successfully portrayed for decades. He tops John Wayne in my book as best cowboy ever on the silver screen. His smoldering eyes and soft-spoken manner always make the womenfolk swoon. He is the basis for my hero in my novel Secrets and Charades. Although Jake’s hair is black he has the mustache and the persona of Sam.

I didn’t actually paste a picture up of Sam as I wrote. Many novelist have photos of their characters in their workspace. I’ve seen enough of his movies to sense how his cowboy characters would react. However, I’ve tempered that persona a bit because Jake is a man of faith. His faith plays an important role in how he interacts with his world, on the ranch, the cattle drive, in town. Jake is awkward around women while treating them with the utmost respect. Even the disagreeable ones won’t hear a mean word directed toward them.

He’s a hard-working, determined rancher with dark places in his past. Guilt pushes him to be a better man for his niece, his ranch hands and his mail-order bride. Can you envision Jake?

Tom Selleck john cusack

Because Secrets is historical, I can’t mention he looks like Sam Elliott. That would be so wrong. We are in the 1870’s and I want my reader to be there with me. My description might stir up an image of a different actor for the reader. Perhaps Tom Selleck or John Cusack or any number of your favs. Which is wonderful because as the reader you get to decide what he looks like.

Henry-Darrow Erik-Estrada

I wrote a very short description of Tony Sanchez. A secondary character and Jake’s ranch hand. My sister was totally enamored with him. “You described him perfectly.” My brief description of his Mexican heritage complete with black hat, silver head band and spurs gave her all the information she needed to visualize him. I had pictured Henry Darrow from an old TV series High Chaparral for Tony but she may have been thinking of Eric Estrada. (You know, the motorcycle cop from CHIPS.)

If the setting for a novel is contemporary, it’s easy to refer to a character as a Sam Elliott or Tom Selleck look-a-like. Although I have a friend whose reference to Medea got shot down by a publisher. Apparently, the publisher had no idea who the character Medea was and felt others would not. (I digress.)

Cowboys are the ultimate hero in American literature, even today with Science Fiction heroes traveling the galaxies. Think Hans Solo. The cowboy persona lives on. He rights wrongs, lives by a moral code and saves the ranch, the damsel and his horse with no thought for his personal safety.

If you were creating a cowboy character what actor would he resemble?

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