1. AxleMAshcraft
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    AxleMAshcraft Member

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    "Wait...oh CRAP!"

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by AxleMAshcraft, Dec 27, 2011.

    I'm sure someone has brought this up before, but I just want to make sure I'm not alone here:
    So I've read all the books and have been told a million times that this is something you strictly SHOULD NOT DO, under any circumstances, and I suppose at one point I would have frowned upon those do did, but sometimes you don't even try, it just kind of happens...and for the years I've been writing, I've never fallen into this trap...
    Until about two weeks ago, when I started my newest brain child.

    My supporting character is based off of someone I know.

    His looks, his actions, the way he reacts to things, the way he talks. The only real difference is that the person I know in real life would never, ever be put into the situations that I'm writing about whereas the character I'm writing would probably never be put into the situations that the real person is in.

    Please tell me I'm not alone...and that this isn't as incredibly creepy as it's making me feel :p

    (I guess I don't have any real questions except some feedback about this... ;) )
     
  2. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    There's nothing wrong with doing a bit of this as real people are the most developed, 3 dimensional characters you'll find anywhere so basing a character off of them can help to flesh them out. You can even base characters on yourself. But be careful it's not a wholesale rip off (especially if you're basing someone on you.). If you do you run the risk of letting your views of the real life person affect that of the character, so you might raise them onto a pedestal, or have bad things always happen to them which can damage the plot. But one or two traits is fine.
     
  3. Ross M Kitson
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    Ross M Kitson Member

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    Personally I can't see why this is a problem if you handle it right... and don't tell the person! All of us imbue out characters with traits that we see in others and this makes them rounded and well developed. A great deal of drama in a book is how those characters react to scenarios and to each other and for me that's the joy in writing- sketching great characters and tossing them into situations and seeing how they come out!
     
  4. CH878
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    CH878 Active Member

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    If you analyse each of your characters, you'll find they're all based on someone you know or know of (probably). It's only natural, we draw inspiration from what we already know. You might mix lots of different people together for one character, but in the end you use characteristics you see in others in real life.
     
  5. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    What everyone else said.
    It's best to avoid it because it can insult people if it's not presented in the best light. Really, what the books aren't telling you to do is rip off other people situations entirely. There's a line in Inception where Cobb tells Ariadne: "Never recreate real places! Always imagine new places. ... Take details; a street lamp, a sign..." It's the same in writing people. Take details of people and their lives (you'll do this naturally in most cases), but never the entire thing.

    There's nothing wrong with it, though, as long as it doesn't end up with you having freaky sex with them in the end.

    In any case, if they read it and they're like, "Umm, is this character me? They're exactly like me..."
    Look at them with one eyebrow cocked and say, "What? Naaah." PLAY THE IGNORANCE CARD. *Stare*

    Disclaimer: that last part is mostly not serious.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes, it's done all the time by fiction writers... just be sure the character isn't so perfectly modeled on a real person that it couldn't be anyone but him/her... therein may lie legal issues you won't want to have to deal with...
     
  7. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    I use several different people to create my characters. Of course they have to compliment each other rather then conflict, not use an outgoing person and a shy person, except for subtle quirks.

    I think a combination of traits makes a better character, because most individuals in real life are average, as in not interesting, and the ones that are interesting would know you are writing about them.

    I believe in the patchwork of characterization.:p
     
  8. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    One of my characters has the same sense of humor as my Dad. When I was 12 with a four year old brother I ended up giving most of my teenaged female characters (in different books) preschool-aged younger brothers. Some of my characters have had protective, loving, anti-discrimination mothers modeled after my own Mom (who raised an undiagnosed autistic kid without ever suggesting that I change who I was). My one character who uses a wheelchair has the same design to his house as my wheelchair-using best friend, and around the same functioning level as her. One of my characters had numerous teachers who all were modeled after my own teachers (first a nice one who did a good job, then a mean one who singled me/him out, then a useless but nice one, just like the most memorable teachers I've had).

    None of these characters are exactly like the real people, in personality or setting (though the mean teacher comes the closest). I think if every single detail is the same, you've got a problem. Firstly, if that person reads it, they will know you're writing about them, and take whatever you say there as indicating how you feel about them, secondly, there's no way you know another person well enough to write them perfectly. Now, if they're in different situations, that alone should bring out enough differences in reactions that they don't seem the same. Or if they're in a similar situation, make their personalities different. (My best friend's personality is totally different from my wheelchair-using character - she's a social sciences major with tons of friends and addicted to Facebook, while he's a computer nerd who feels really awkward around people.)

    And judging from the stuff people have posted here that they read in writing books, I'd say those books suck. Don't listen to them.
     
  9. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    One of my favourite writers once told an anecdote: His friend recognized himself in one of the characters and didn't like it. The writer apologized, but showed his friend a notebook where he wrote down, on daily basis, bits and things on whole families he knew!

    The point is, you will never be able to escape from existing personalities and stories. Simply because you can never imagine something completely un-human. So, don't pressure yourself, just think of the character you write as someone separate from your friend. You will see that, during the process of writing things will pop up and reveal itself that will make him more and more individual and less and less your friend's look-a-like.
    If it doesn't - scrap the whole :D
     
  10. AmsterdamAssassin
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    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

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    Don't flatter yourself. You haven't read ALL of them. :D
     

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