Creating Fictional Characters

BASING CHARACTERS ON REAL PEOPLE

When interviewing authors plugging their latest book, one of the most frequent questions asked by the presenter is 'Are your characters based on real people?' The answer invariably given is 'Not exactly'.

In order to be convincing, fictional characters must ring true. The reader should be able to relate to them and identify with them, but the description needs only to be sufficient to project a recognisable image.

After all, as the average reader is unlikely to have met her, there is little point in faithfully producing an accurately detailed word-picture of Great-Aunt Edna. Worse still, if Edna had something of a reputation in her day, you could end up causing offence and even leaving yourself open to a possible lawsuit if you get your facts wrong.

Mixing and matching

The best way of avoiding this is to come up with a composite impression of Aunty which will satisfy interested relatives that she was the inspiration for your character, but is far enough removed to keep you out of the law courts.

As with an autobiographical account, mixing and matching enhances your characters and surprisingly, often helps to make them more believable.

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