Does a character seem familiar? Could be you know them all too well

Legal Disclaimer
Chances are you’ve seen this before. This is the legal disclaimer inside the cover of nearly every work of fiction we’ve ever read. But have you considered the possibility that the publisher is lying? Or at a minimum, not being completely honest.

It is true that most authors don’t intentionally base their characters on someone they know. The names I chose for my characters in MIND WAVES were totally fabricated. So if they are someone’s name (which I suspect they are. If you don’t believe me, just type your own name into Google and see how many people come up), then it is purely coincidental. But subconsciously and even, consciously, an author draws from their own experiences. The people we meet in passing, as well as those we know intimately, make great fodder for our stories.

So if an author tells you that none of the characters in their fictional story are based on the personality traits of at least one person they know, they are either lying or they don’t peer deep enough into their own writing.

Famous examples
There are many accounts of famous works whose characters are based on real people. Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series was based on author JK Rowling’s chemistry teacher, John Nettleship. Mark Twain based his popular Huckleberry Finn character on his boyhood friend, Tom Blankenship. Charles Dickens based the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge off of a miserly politician of the day, John Elwes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is alleged to have based his Sherlock Holmes character on his own talented doctor, Dr. Joseph Bell.

A writer draws on what they have first-hand knowledge about — it’s instinctual. Not only do some of the character traits in my novel share similarities with people I know, some of the scenes that happened, really happened, either to me or someone I know.

Some choices are conscious…I set my novel in Cleveland, a town I know well. I made the female lead a freelance writer, since I had been a freelance writer for a year and could draw on that experience. Others are subconscious choices, which are harder to define. For me, it wasn’t until after I wrote the novel and read it to myself that I realized what had prompted the character development.

So…. what are the subconscious choices I made?
Well, now. That’s one of the things that makes writing and having people you know read your books so much fun. They read the story, get into the characters and then they start to wonder: Were any of the characters based on a real person? Could they themselves be in the story?

If you’ve had that thought, you know the author, and a character seems familiar, chances are they are based on someone you know all too well…maybe someone you spy in the mirror every day.

2 Comments

  1. Very soon (if not already), people will be lining up, begging you to attach their names to the characters in your novels!

    • Great thought! I am hard at work on book two in the series, Cross Waves. It is shaping up really well. I am at 3,800 words already and the characters are a lot of fun. But at this stage, I have NO idea if they are based on anyone I know….we shall need to wait and see:)

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