Keep Your Friends Close and Your Books Closer

Right after I published my last post, I thought of some writing advice I wanted to offer.  That’s how my brain works.  Always coming up with relevant information two seconds after it’s needed.

Oh well, that just means you get to hear more from me.  I know that this is all you want out of life.

Here is my advice:  Based on my personal experience, you should proceed with caution when basing a fictional character on someone you know in real life.

For one thing, if you base a character on someone in your family, you may cause some problems like…

1. Making that person the subject of ridicule.  Did you know that A. A. Milne, author of the famous Winnie the Pooh stories, based Christopher Robin on  none other than his son, Christopher Robin?  Yeah, little Chris didn’t enjoy school much after those books were published.  Or so I’ve heard from the Internet, which can be a reliable source sometimes.

2. Offending the person with a truthful, or not-so-truthful, portrayal.  If you’ve always resented your mother for packing your lunch for you even when you were well into your thirties, maybe writing about an annoying, hated mother who does the exact same thing isn’t the best way to tell her.

But my experience has not been with writing about family.  I do occasionally draw on my mother when I need to think about how a mother would react to something, but other than that, I keep things distant.  No, my experience has been with friends.

Family you are stuck with.  Friends have no such obligations.  Friendships change.  Sometimes they grow stronger over time, and sometimes bad things happen and ties are severed.  And then you get situations like this:




This kind of thing has happened to me twice.  Well…not that exact situation.  But I did end up having two books kind of tainted for me.  Luckily both those books turned out to be crap, so they wouldn’t have made it far anyway, but I think my point is still valid.  If you tie your real life into your fictional writing, you risk having your life taint or color your writing in unexpected ways.  I find the best way to approach this now is to avoid basing characters on people I know.  I will, occasionally, take a certain trait or some specific thing that a person has done and insert those things into my writing to make the characters feel more real, but that’s as far as I go.  That way I can judge my writing as objectively as possible.

In conclusion, I am not saying that this rule must definitely apply to everyone.  But it is something to think about.  That’s all I wanted to point out.


Word of the Day: Ridicule (n) – speech or action intended to cause contemptuous laughter at a person or thing; derision.

P.S.  Bet you didn’t know this, but my best friend, Liz, has the cutest Jack Russel in the world!  Now, out of the goodness of her heart, she has brought that cuteness to your computer screens.  As of this writing, she only has three videos up, but I’m sure more are on the way.  Check out her YouTube channel by clicking here.  And here’s a sneak peek of little Zero’s antics:


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Filed under books, Comic, Humor, writing

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