Sunday, July 09, 2006
  basing characters on people you know
In the past, I never based characters on people I actually knew. My characters were just people like people I might know, or perhaps people like I wish I were.

But among the various epiphanies I've been having these past few days is one for a subplot for second of the two novels I'm going to work on in the near future (and it really needs a subplot if I'm going to turn it into a complete novel, since I thought it was supposed to be a short story, but it really wants to grow way beyond that).

Anyway... I was looking for a good subplot to add, and it hit me that the best way to do this would be to add a character who happens to be a whole lot like a good friend of mine. Of course, this character won't be exactly the same as my friend, but my friend is unique enough and the similarities are strong enough that anyone who knows this person will immediately recognize that the character strongly reflects my friend in many, many ways.

The question is whether I should work really hard to make this character different. Or maybe I should talk to my friend and see how he/she feels about being a part of one of my novels. And if I do, what happens if she/he says, "For Goodness Sake! No!" Do I go ahead and write the character the way I want? After all, it's not like I said, "So-and-so is a cool person, I want to make a character just like him/her."

Rather, I was writing a scene where a person's (business) partner is dying, and so s/he crawls into bed with them to warm them up (trying to prevent them from going into shock). And if felt really weird, and a bit erotic, even though this person was dying, and the partner's intent was only to help keep him/her warm with their body heat (a tried and true first aid technique). But the ambiguity around the word partner made two readings possible -- business partner or love partner, and the getting into bed with the dying person thus acquired two meanings as well -- the first aid one, and then this tender farewell to a dear friend/partner. Wow! Suddenly a vista opened up for a new partner again with the variety of meanings being brought into play. And I saw the scene where my character meets the new partner-to-be, and as I thought about what would bring these two people together, what business interests, what physical attraction, it became really clear that the new partner really resembled my own friend.

So either it was my subconscious working, or an unintentional resemblence, or just there are only so many kinds of people out there, sooner or later, you're going to hit on a character that in some way resembles someone you know.

Anyway, enough rambling... off to write!
 
Comments:
What an interesting post!
If I mention that I'm writing a novel (which I don't very often), the other person often asks if he or she is in it. It seems kind of rude just to say, "No." so I usually stumble around on that one. None of my characters are exact replicas of real people, but sometimes people I know seem to show up here and there in my characters.
Also, one character I wrote recently has a definite and growing resemblance to a real person, although the character started out as strictly imaginery. So I can't kill this character off or anything - that would be major bad karma! (hee hee).
 
Oh! And here I was definately planning on killing off the character. Tragically, and with much bemoaning of said character's fate, but still, definately dead. Not that I'd wish such a fate on my friend! Or even on the character, for all that goes. But sometimes it is needed to move the story along...
 
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Progressive Muslim, feminist, mom, writer, mystic, lover of the universe and Doug Schmidt, cellist, theologian and imam.


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Cane River
An interesting exploration of the gradual whiting of a family through slavery to modern days.

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English Language Islamic Fiction. We need more of it. Lots more.
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Wanda Campbell also known as Nochipa A very gifted poet and a gentle, compassionate soul. Nochipa and I are on the same page on sooooo many things
Writeous Sister Aminah Hernandez, she's got some excellent latino pieces and always has good writing info on her blog.
Sister Scorpion aka Leila Montour - Leila is a fount of energy, quirky humor, and bad attitude. She's also a talented poet.
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Louise Marley Another great writer. I think Louise is one of the best sf writers exploring faith themes.
Ink in My Coffee Devon Ellington (who has numerous aliases) who is also the editor of Circadian Poems. A truly inspiring woman with a seemingly endless supply of energy.
Ethnically Incorrect With a name like that, isn't a given I'm going to enjoy this writer?
Freedom from the Mundane Colin Galbraith, another excellent writer, from Scotland.
The Scruffy Dog Review This is a new e-zine with an ecclectic mix of fiction, poetry, and non-fic, some really enjoyable pieces here.
Ramblings of a Suburban Soccer Mom Lara, another gentle soul, very thoughtful.
Circadian Poems A journal of poetry, new stuff up all the time.
Ye Olde Inkwell Michelle writes romance and is one of my writing buddies.
Muhammad Michael Knight The original punk Muslim writer. Like him or love him, Mike is always coming up with the unexpected.

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