1. chris90
    Offline

    chris90 New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2015
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Australia / UK

    How far is too far? - characters and people in our lives

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by chris90, Jul 23, 2015.

    What are your thoughts about drawing on personalities, habits and actions from people in your lives when creating characters?

    I write realist fiction, which means I lose the wonderful context of fantasy to mask realities I am drawing on from my own life or the lives of friends around me.

    I recognise the importance of subtlety in writing, however when you are incorporating traits, behaviours and actions based on family members and close friends how far is too far?

    Have you ever constructed a character based on someone you know and then had a work published and had that person read your work and recognise that it reflects something about them?
     
  2. AgentBen
    Offline

    AgentBen Member

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2015
    Messages:
    60
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    England
    If drawing from people in my life helps my book, which it has, then I see no problem. You'll be surprised how obvious it has to be for someone to recognize you're talking about them.
     
  3. Aaron DC
    Offline

    Aaron DC Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2015
    Messages:
    2,554
    Likes Received:
    1,251
    Location:
    At my keyboard
    I would not do it.
     
  4. Tesoro
    Offline

    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    2,825
    Likes Received:
    290
    Location:
    A place with no future
    The best would probably be to mix traits (ex: characteristics) from one character with other traits (ex: physical appearance) from another and maybe the profession of a third one in order to get a fictional character who isn't too easily identifiable. But if you don't portray this person in a negative way or describe bad or immoral things this real person have done in a way that readers can identify him/her, I don't see it as a problem, really.
     
  5. Christine Ralston
    Offline

    Christine Ralston Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2014
    Messages:
    171
    Likes Received:
    62
    I agree with AgentBen. People probably aren't going to recognize that you're using them as models. To be on the safe side, though, you could create an amalgam...don't use character traits all from one person. Create a blend of character traits from people you know or make some of them up.
     
    AgentBen likes this.
  6. DeadMoon
    Offline

    DeadMoon Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2014
    Messages:
    756
    Likes Received:
    441
    Location:
    fargo, ND
    I am taking bits and pieces from people in my but I would think it would be fine to use more. My wife also does this but tke a more direct approach and asks for there permission to use them before hand.
     
  7. Tesoro
    Offline

    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    2,825
    Likes Received:
    290
    Location:
    A place with no future
    I think asking permission is taking things a little too far. After all, traits are nothing that can be copyrighted or protected. They're something we share with a lot of people in the world, even though we don't know them. Same thing with looks, plus there's also the fact that you can give two people the same basic physical traits (Blond, curly hair, green eyes, 5'6, 30 years old) and in reality they would still look very different. I think it's when you combine them (looks, personality, other factors) in a way that people recognize themselves in combination with writing about characters with whom they don't want to identify or that portray them in a less flattering way that you're asking for trouble.
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2015
  8. Whiplash
    Offline

    Whiplash New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2015
    Messages:
    9
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    United States
    I'm pretty sure most great and accomplished writers have done this. What we see around us inspires us just as throughout the millennia, painters have been inspired and depicted what they saw. A great example would be writers who were social or societal critics but instead of just flat out saying that, their views were hidden or intertwined in their fiction and characters, particularly at times in history when being outspoken about certain topics would have gotten one a bad rep.

    I just started a new story and the initial inspiration was actually from a real life event that happened to me recently. In my fiction, there is a lot going on that *didn't* actually happen but some of the characters are based on people I know. That makes it a lot easier for me to imagine the way they respond and react to other people and situations. My story is mostly imaginary but it's been drawn from real life. So far, every location in it is also at least loosely based on a real-life location.

    So drawing on people from your life and your own experiences to create a piece of literary or for that matter screen fiction is I would think more of the norm than the obscure. I agree that the characters should not be EXACTLY real people. Heh. That would be pretty awkward unless you are writing a "based on a true story" type of thing where it is plain that everyone in the story is an actual person.
     

Share This Page