Saturday, March 31, 2007

All My Characters are Fictional . . .

. . . or are they?

As I write, I try not to pattern my characters after anyone I know. This helps me avoid nasty lawsuits later on (I hope.) I do find, though, that after the book is published or is well underway, that a character bears a strong resemblance to someone else.

*In "Strength to Endure," when Claude and Liesl are taking walks together, this is a memory I had of my husband taking my baby daughter for walks.

*Emilie in "Strength to Endure" is the spitting image of Nina Shelton, a dear friend of mine who owned the floral shop where I worked just before I got married. She later passed away, but I feel somehow connected to her through the character of Emilie.

*In my WIP, the character of Nora matches the physical description of Candace Salima, LDS author and good friend of mine.

*In "Nothing to Regret," Colonel Beaumont is based on General Waverly from the movie "White Christmas."

I didn't do any of this intentionally. In fact, it wasn't until watching "White Christmas" during the holiday season after "Nothing to Regret" came out that I made that connection. But sometimes, we'll have a picture in our heads of what a certain character should look like, and we can't help it if that picture just happens to look like someone we already know, now, can we?

As a side note: When Dieter Uchtdorf was called to be a General Authority, I took one look at him and said, "That's what Kurt would have looked like, if he had survived."


Anonymous said...

I'm with you. Although it's not a good idea to tell them. I went to church one day and suddenly realized I had pegged a guy in my ward. I told him about it and now I'm worried he will be offended by the character

Keith Fisher

Josi said...

I've had people ask me if I patterned a character on them, which I hadn't. One time the character was a reflection of a friend in regard to issues I had no idea he'd faced. I even gave the character the same name--very creepy. In one instance I had every member of a family in my ward in my book. I did none of it on purpose but I don't know that they believed me.

I'm just aloof that way, I guess, I try so hard NOT to base a character on a person I do it by accident. I did see my character Allen once, at a Jazz game. It was such a striking resemblance I had to stop myself from going up and talking to him. I'm sure I'd have been arrested.

Tristi Pinkston said...

Keith -- yeah, probably best not to tell them. They might not take it all that well. :)

Josi -- that's just plain creepy, naming your characters after a family in your ward. But running into Allen at a game -- wow, that's even creepier! (Cue Twilight Zone theme music)

I feel lucky (and grateful) that when I made these connections between my fictional characters and real people, they were all positive characters. :)

Janette Rallison said...

I've modeled characters on real people--a lot of them myself. I've put one of my sons in two of my books. Other than that, I never tell people.

Annette Lyon said...

I saw one of my characters in a parking lot once. That was a little weird.

And once I based a character on a friend, but then the character morphed and took on a life of their own, so by the end of the book no longer resembled the original person.

But usually it's not much of an issue anymore, since I write historical pieces. I don't usually imagine people I know back in that time, somehow.

Darvell Hunt said...

Real people make better characters than what I can make up. More realistic, too. Most of my "good characters" are composites of people I have observed, with characteristics of myself, and characteristics that are NOT myself, but things that I'm afraid of being.

I have purposely put names of people I know in stories to pay homage to them, particularly with characters that are not even close to the people from whom I stole the name. That way I can say, "Yeah, the character is named after you!" but they can obviously see it's not them, so how can they be mad? This way I can then hide the fact that another character with a different name is actually them!

While part of this is jest, I honestly believe that the best way to write fiction is to tell the truth, mixed with lies. I guess I play the role of Satan with this point of view, because that's what he does, but my stories usually mimic things from life in a way that "could have happened" or "should have happened" or even, "wouldn't this have been scary if such-and-such had happened instead."

Honestly, though, do you really think you'll get sued for using characteristics of people you know? I understand that happening in non-fiction expose'-like books, but fiction? I wonder.


Tristi Pinkston said...

In response to Darvell's comment, the only way to really make fiction come across as "real" is to take things that we've observed in life and to translate them into our writing. We just don't want to put every detail of someone's life all into one character.

Heather B. Moore said...

One of my favorite activities as a teenager was people-watching. My friends and I would take our lunch break and go into "town" (which happened to be downtown Jerusalem). We'd sit there and make comments (some nice, some not so nice) about everyone who walked by. We'd try to guess where they were going, and what they were like. We had a lot of fun doing it.

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