1. atsgtm2018
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    atsgtm2018 Member

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    Am I Projecting Too Much?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by atsgtm2018, Aug 28, 2016.

    All my characters are definitely inspired by people I know. Writers write what they know right? But how do I know if I'm projecting too much of who they are on the characters? I read that can be a bad thing. Called it using a "Mary Sue", I think. All their identies have been protected , I just want to know if I'm breaking any ethical/unwritten rules about it or how do I know when I am?
     
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Mary Sue" characters are usually defined as being characters who are too good to be true - there's a fairly famous test for the issue at http://www.springhole.net/writing/marysue.htm

    Assuming you aren't writing Mary Sues, I think the only problem with writing based on people you know would be if the people you know read your work and recognize themselves. Do you think this is a risk?
     
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  3. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm one of those writers who has to create every character from scratch, but there are a lot of greats who've based their characters on real people to the degree you're describing. You're in good company ;)

    Just maybe look into cake recipes in case someone gets mad. I'm told it helps :p
     
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  4. atsgtm2018
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    atsgtm2018 Member

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    It's a possibility. I write characters inspired by people and some of the projections are negative but it doesn't reflect how I feel about them in reality. The projections are just a curiosity of who they COULD be.
     
  5. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    It's silly to think that anyone who writes fiction doesn't draw inspiration from people around them. It might be vague, disconnected inspiration, but it's there. All of our knowledge about human interactions came from experiencing them. Sure, we extrapolate on those experiences and make up new ones, but the groundwork was already laid by life.

    The only thing you have to worry about with projecting too much is whether or not the people from whom you've drawn inspiration will notice the parallels. That's your job to muddy the water, so to speak. Mash up traits between people you know and BAM you have an original character.

    ETA: I think you've crossed a line if you wrote the story to get at someone, to cast them specifically in a negative light. I think it would be wrong to write a story about a real person and a real event by just fudging the names and calling it fiction. If you're just telling a story and have used traits that belong to people you know, don't worry so much about it.
     
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  6. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    And that really only becomes a problem if you use a name that's very close to theirs, have the character living under the exact same circumstances or describe them physically in a way that your friend can't but recognize. One other way they might recognize themselves is if you relate an incident from that person's life.

    Short of those obvious giveaways, if you base a character's actions, reactions and thinking on someone you know (but absolutely nothing else) chances of them recognizing themselves is very slim, especially if the character is an antagonist. No one wants to think themselves capable of evil or even negative actions.
     
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  7. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I think the biggest pitfall in basing characters on real people lies in the risk of adhering too closely to the person you know instead of allowing them to be shaped by the story.

    I sometimes use aspects of someone I know as a starting point, but I grow the story and the character from there.
     
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  8. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    You can draw aspects of what you like about people, but I'd steer clear from basing your characters entirely around those people. If they read it, and find out they're supposed to be that character, they might decide to sue.
     
  9. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yup, gotta agree with this. I often start with people I knew/know, but then let the plot reshape their lives. Personalities often stay the same, but the story is what makes them characters in their own right.
     

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