1. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    Base characters on real people?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by tonguetied, May 24, 2014.

    I have looked a bit without success to see if my question has been answered, hopefully this is not a completely redundant post. When you create a character do you try to base them around someone you know in real life, my thought is that it helps contain their character traits to what is realistic not a set of characteristics that are not logically associated. Or do you simply create a character free form and hope their traits seem coherent with a real person, not considering MPD types.

    I also will assume it is always bad to use the name of a character that matches the person you may have molded your character's personality around, you don't want your friends recognizing themselves too easily. And enough modifications in the character's personality not to make it apparent who they are in your story.
     
  2. grimmsistr
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    grimmsistr Member

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    I think for me it a mixture of a lot of Things. I like to take certain trades from people I know or see in real life but I mostly also take things from characters of stories Ive read or poetry etc.
    Ive never had a character in a story be so much like a person that I would fear the person recognizing themselves if they read it.

    I suppose Building a character around a real person would help to keep the character realistic. But I dont know, that seems to me to just be those trades the person would have on the outside, or you would have to know them pretty deeply. Under neath the surface, people might even have trades that doesnt seem to fit like a glove together. there might be trades that would seem to contradict eachother, I think this makes the characters more interesting..

    What Im trying to say is, be carful not to make your character too onesided, if you base them on what you see on the outside of your friends.
     
  3. sunsplash
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    sunsplash Bona fide beach bum

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    Well, we all borrow in some ways from life experiences and I think there are traits in every character of mine that resemble someone I know to a degree...myself included. I don't intentionally base any of my entire characters off those I know, that could get messy, but I'll often come across something that reminds me of another person IRL ("I could so see so-and-so saying that," or "that's something ___ would do." Or, if I'm stuck, borrow a quirk or phrase someone I know might have/say and mold that in. Nothing more than that, though. The rest is my imagination.
     
  4. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    The more people you know, the more life experience you have, the more will you understand the dynamics of human personalities, psychologies and interpersonal relationships. That's where "borrowing" from real people comes in - there is no way out of it. Your characters are going to look more or less like people you've met, observed and analyzed. Sure, reading about psychology and understanding the theory is of great help - I'd go as far and say that a 21st century author needs to include basic psychological training in his education, or at least try out different therapies even if s/he is not personally suffering from any problems of that kind. BUT even that comes secondary compared to contact with real people in real situations.

    Of course you are not going to base a character 100% on a real person - that's a bit lazy, right? - but a good distribution of traits and bits and pieces of their personalities, and balancing that with a healthy amount of imagination and improvisation: I think that's the key to a succesful character study. I may be wrong - and cardboard cut-outs may work just fine for authors with other priorities :)
     
  5. JosephMarch
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    JosephMarch Active Member

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    I go a step further...my MC is heavily based on ME. I threw myself into the story line, then sat back to see what I would do. Not sure if that's a good idea or not, but hey, who else do I know better than myself, right?
     
  6. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks to all for your replies. Some interesting thoughts that almost counter what I was thinking would happen if I don't base a character closely to a real life person. As was pointed out wysiwyg is not true for people. Thanks again.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i, like probably all fiction writers, blend aspects of myself and people i've known/observed into the characters of my stories... i think it would be impossible to not do so...
     
  8. Katherine Melmore
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    Katherine Melmore Member

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    I'm adapting a character from Facebook.
    I'm very aware of plagiarism and I'm being super careful and asking people around me.as well as my mentor.
    So far I've only written a five minute monologue.I'd like to go further with it.
    Other than that I use Myself mainly
    People I've met must come into it as well
     
  9. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Do you mean someone who is a friend on FB, or a public figure whom you have "liked"?

    As others have noted, it probably isn't possible to create fictional characters whose personality traits do not derive from people we have known. That's not the same as basing a character entirely on one person. If you do the latter, your friend will likely recognize him/herself whether the name is the same or not. If the name is the same, the friend can say that your character is not actually fictional but rather a representation of him/herself, and if the representation is not flattering you could find yourself facing a lawsuit (this could be the case even if the name is different, but the name makes their case stronger).
     
  10. Katherine Melmore
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    Katherine Melmore Member

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    I mean somebody I happen to have met on Facebook.
    She's a girl working in MacDonalds in the States.she's lost her mum.
    That's the basic premise. At the moment its a five minute monologue and I'd like to take it further.I have asked her and she is very happy about it.I've shown it to her.and asked my mentor and shown him pieces of the work and pieces of her work.
    Some of it is paraphrasing. Ive not used her language I've used my own. there is one quote I haven't acknowledged but it is short. If it goes to performance I will gladly Reference her.
    Her writing is fantastic.she doesn't know it.I've told her. I showed her my Previous work.
     
  11. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Get her written permission for any and all uses. Referencing her is not enough.
     
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  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto that!

    do not go further without a signed release!!!
     
  13. Bjørnar Munkerud
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    Bjørnar Munkerud Contributing Member

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    Personally I tend to be very meticulous about combining, extrapolating, combining and changing aspect of characters, so that they are 1. "mine" (and not some stolen cheap lazy knock-off), 2. interesting and 3. fit the story. I also rarely tend to base characters directly off of people I know (of), I instead use my experience with people in general and create characters from scratch, with only periodic influence from specific people.

    And even when I do use a real person as the fundament for a character, it's probably just a starting point (i.e. in time I will have changed the character to the unrecognisable), only in regards to the person's appearance (or name or occupation, not personality or age) or, the most likely of them all, it's based on myself.

    Because I'm a person, and in fact the only person I know inside-out, I'm a great starting point for characters, and then I just make sure to make my characters dissimilar to me in various ways afterwards (intelligence, interests, age, sex, sexuality, appearance, stature, name, job, religion, politics, accent, nationality, temper, clothes, wealth, quirks, fears etc).
     
  14. Katherine Melmore
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    Katherine Melmore Member

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    All I want to do is cheap lazy stolen knockoffs
     
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  15. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Can't tell if you're kidding, so I will assume you're not. That's fine until/unless you decide to try to make money on it, at which point you may well find yourself a target. And if your subject perceives your portrayal as negative, you won't even have to make money on it.

    My advice stands.
     
  16. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    What I have found interesting in this continuing dialogue is that no one seems concerned if their character is believable, at least that is my takeaway. I asked my original question to understand how you give a character their traits and avoid personality conflicts within their character. Judging by the responses that doesn't seem to enter the picture at all, characters are whatever you make them to be. I think I can readily accept this since two of my favorite authors are Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child who use their FBI character Pendergast who has a virtually impossible combination of traits, but I love those stories nevertheless.
     
  17. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I'm not sure how you come to that conclusion based on the responses you got. I realize that no one commented on it directly, but that may be because you didn't express it as a concern. Making my characters believable is always a goal.

    Perhaps a better way to put your question might have been: does basing a character on a real person assure that the character will be more believable than if (s)he were made up out of whole cloth?

    This suggests that my rephrasing of your question, above, is incomplete, and that a secondary question would be: Does basing a character on a real person assure that the resulting character will be more realistic because there will be no traits that conflict with one another? And I think this is a false premise, because I have known many people who were deeply conflicted. And I have read of many characters who were deeply conflicted (including my current reading, the granddaddy of all conflicted personalities, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde).

    So, my answer to your questions is that basing a character on a real person is no guarantee that the character will be free of personality conflicts, because internal personality conflicts exist in real persons. Moreover, the existence of such conflicts makes possible genuinely intriguing story ideas. I also don't think that basing a character on a real person will necessarily make them more believable - with or without conflicts - because what makes a character believable is not just the traits with which we endow them, but how we portray them reacting to the conflicts into which we place them.
     
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  18. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    " When you create a character do you try to base them around someone you know in real life, my thought is that it helps contain their character traits to what is realistic not a set of characteristics that are not logically associated."

    That was a primary consideration in my original question I thought. And I specifically discounted MPD types such as Jekyll and Hyde. I think with MPD characters it is the conflict in their character traits that create a large part of their story. So often stories seem to give the MC an almost impossible to have set of traits, physical and mental, I doubt that Isaac Newton was a body builder, but so many MCs seem to suggest that.

    However I think my question was answered, don't let conflicting traits be an issue with the character you want to portray. Thanks for you insight EdFromNY.
     
  19. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    My reference to Jekyll and Hyde was primarily intended for humor. Naturally, you want a character's traits to be logical and realistic. I don't think you need to base a character on real people to do that, but understanding real-world context helps, regardless.
     
  20. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Usually I don't base characters on real people but I try to take notes on real people who behave like my characters as they are more believable. For instance one character I've been building for years - a bad boss - is now heavily informed by the boss of someone I know - who replicated the behavior far better than I could have written it.
     
  21. Larissa Redeker
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    Larissa Redeker Active Member

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    In my case, it depends of the story I'm working on. I create the char from scratch, trying to make then realistic as possible. But in the last idea (a supernatural erotic comedy) a lot of people wanted to be used as mold for the chars :/ Don't ask me way, I'm trying to understand it, too.
     

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