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Basing a Fictional Character on a Real Person : Writers' Block Party • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

Basing a Fictional Character on a Real Person

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G.E.Plum
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Basing a Fictional Character on a Real Person

Postby G.E.Plum » Sun Sep 04, 2016 7:35 am

I'm writing a novel based on a personal experience I had on a camping trip.

One year a friend, "Friend A," an experienced camper, took me on my very first camping trip. I had a great time but I don't think Friend A did, because I was a newbie and didn't know anything. I did my best, but still -- a fish out of water. Some time after we got back from our trip, our friendship just sort of fizzled out. No big break-up, just fizzled out, and we lost touch.

A year later some other friends of mine (Friends B and C) helped me arrange another camping trip because I really wanted to experience camping again. I went back to the same campground I had visited with Friend A because I really liked it, it was a nice place. Friend A did not go with me, didn't even know about the trip, had nothing to do with it.

So now I am writing a novel about someone, "Protagonist," going camping. The first chapter recalls Protagonist's first-ever camping trip with a friend. The experience is not great, but not terrible, and later their friendship just sort of fizzles out. But Protagonist wants to try again, and later gets to go on a second camping trip, and meets some campers, and makes some new friends to camp with.

Is it OK to base that first chapter on my own experience with Friend A? Novels include a disclaimer about any resemblance between their characters and actual persons being merely coincidence, so is it OK to mention a character who is based on a real person?

cj741126
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Re: Basing a Fictional Character on a Real Person

Postby cj741126 » Sun Sep 04, 2016 8:42 am

This may help. If I knew I could post a link I would. Google Helen Sedwick's article on "How to use real people in your story and not end up in court." I believe it's called that, it may be of some help. She gives rules and such for this particular area. Hope it helps...read the comments as well, at the end, there are some good points made. I'm not sure if they're written in stone rules or not, I've never published but they seem a decent enough base to build from or to get you started at least, IMO.

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shadowwalker
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Re: Basing a Fictional Character on a Real Person

Postby shadowwalker » Sun Sep 04, 2016 9:34 am

All good fictional characters are based on real people. The key is "based on", not "copied from". This is where the creative part of writing kicks in and takes over from just recounting "this funny/weird/embarrassing thing that happened to me". "Friend A" may or may not be interesting to readers - chances are, he's not. Most real people do not make interesting characters. But take This Thing from "Friend A" and add That Thing from "Friend B" and adjust This Other Thing from "Friend C" and BAM! You've got Fascinating Character.
"It seems rather like wanting to be ... a writer, rather than wanting to write. It should be a by-product, not a thing in itself. Otherwise, it's just an ego trip." - Roger Zelazny

It's really not that hard. Just tell me a story.

steve-in-kville
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Re: Basing a Fictional Character on a Real Person

Postby steve-in-kville » Sun Sep 04, 2016 11:11 am

Something tells me that Hemingway did this a lot. And was called out on it a few times as well. Apparently those close to him weren't all that fond of it!

G.E.Plum
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Re: Basing a Fictional Character on a Real Person

Postby G.E.Plum » Sun Sep 04, 2016 3:03 pm


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u.v.ray
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Re: Basing a Fictional Character on a Real Person

Postby u.v.ray » Tue Sep 06, 2016 12:23 am

Just change the names, that's the wise thing to do. All my stories are autobiographical, and all my characters are based on real people. Jack Kerouac's iconic On the Road is an autobiographical tale of a road trip with his friends. In his case, although he changed the names, everyone knows who they really are.
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Noizchild
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Re: Basing a Fictional Character on a Real Person

Postby Noizchild » Tue Sep 06, 2016 4:15 pm

I do this with my family, friends, and celebrities that I like.
You ask me what I thought about
Before we were lovers.
The answer is easy.
Before I met you
I didn't have anything to think about.

-- From "The Love Poems of Marichiko"

James A. Ritchie
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Re: Basing a Fictional Character on a Real Person

Postby James A. Ritchie » Tue Sep 13, 2016 12:45 pm

early all my fictional characters are based on real people. I copy real people as close as I possibly can, and often use real names. I've never had a com[plaint. The world is full of fascinating people, so why try to create one that comes across like Frankenstein's monster?


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