Sunday, May 29, 2011

Don't Take The Writer Literally: A Rant. (Part 2)

Last post I brought up the issue of readers assuming a character is the writer. Today I shall talk about another thing that gripes my @$$: When readers assume a character is based on a real person... or even more irritating, when they ask you to put them in one of your stories.

First off, there's horrific legal implications to be considered. I don't know about you, but I don't feel like getting sued.

Second off, to truly put a real person in a fictional story is impossible. Hell, to put someone else's fictional person in your fictional story is also impossible. When I was 13 I had the hugest crush on Louis de Pointe du Lac, from Anne Rice's INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE. I wrote a romance with him as the hero...and later with flaming cheeks, burned it.

My representation of Louis eventually evolved into Silas McNaught, a Scottish vampire tormented by psychic visions and guilt for using his preternatural abilities to slaughter hundreds of English soldiers in the sixteenth century. So, besides bearing a passing resemblance to Brad Pitt, they had little in common. The character became his own person.

The same happens with real people. Humans are too complex for one to truly capture another in words. You may think you know your best friend, but I'm certain you have no clue about certain aspects of her personality. My blue collar drinking buddies would be shocked to know that I actually do some "girlish" things like clothes shopping and crying during movies. My few girl friends would be equally shocked if they knew just how crude and "manly" I can be.

That said, I'm certain some characters do evolve from real people in the author's universe, but the finished product will always become its own entity. I believe this is even true for characters based on historical figures. The real Queen Elizabeth I would likely not recognize herself in either Philippa Gregory's or Virginia Henley's representations, despite years of careful research.

So when you're reading a friend's novel and wonder if the shoe-shopping addict side character is you, don't freak out. You are too unique for anyone to capture the real you.


  1. LOL so funny--my oldest sister just asked me last night if I would write her as a character--I let it go but I guess what she doesn't realize (and what I'll never tell her) is that many of my characters have traits of hers, just like others are influenced by the rest of society who shaped me to this point. Besides, for me (as it seems for you) the voices that emerge are their own entities and have little or nothing to do with the real world--their worlds are real enough, thanks (overactive imagination...)

    Great post!

  2. Thanks! I confess I did borrow one of my best friend's catch phrases for one of my side characters... with her permission of course. She read it and loved it.