How to Inject your Friends into Characters (and Hopefully Keep Them)

Sometimes, in reference to a character in one of my books, a reader will ask, “Was that about you?”

It’s an interesting question but with an unclear answer.

Sure, there’s a little bit in me in all of my characters. I think most writers could make the same claim. And why is this? Because as writers we know enough about ourselves to share our best and worst traits in our work. It’s also because as writers we never go out.

The challenge, however, is to be able to take on different personas to keep characters as individual as humanly possible. This goes for everything from back story to physical appearance to, most importantly, dialogue. Unless you’re of multiple personalities, you run the risk of giving your characters the same voice.

Last time we discussed taking acting classes to overcome this. Another method would be to augment your characters with the personalities of people you know.

I’ve met a lot of people over the years, some of which are so bizarre that no writer could ever dream them up! But a writer could be inspired by their speech patterns, their dress, or those other peculiar little nuances that make them so unforgettable. Even their seemingly harmless habits can help you.

For example, you must know someone who has an obsession with their handheld device. Give that trait to a character and build on it. What does their obsession tell you about them? That they’re easily distracted? Inattentive? Insecure? Paranoid? And then think about what may have caused them to have that trait. Perhaps they had a negative family life. Or they’re doing something they’re not supposed to be doing. Or they’ve lost people close to them so they’re afraid to lose touch.

Voila! You’re on your way to a well-rounded character.

If know me personally, chances are a little piece of you has been or will be the inspiration for a character in my universe. Take it as a compliment; you’ve left an indelible impression on me.

Even if the character turns out to be evil, I’m using you as a blueprint for their humanity, not for their deeds.

But to protect our friendship, I think I’ll keep the truth to myself. People in my fictional universe are usually destined towards grisly ends. It’s nothing personal. If I like you I might even kill the character with a little more love than usual.

Anything for friendship.

If you’re a writer, write. And if you’re a reader, keep reading. We need you!

Richard Todd is an author, blogger, and Social Media guy. Plus a few other things that get lost in the clutter. Visit him online at www.richard-todd.com.

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Author: Richard S. Todd

Pro copywriter. Expressive voice artist. Award-winning public speaker.

2 thoughts on “How to Inject your Friends into Characters (and Hopefully Keep Them)”

  1. I’ve written myself and several people I know pretty blatantly into my current series, but as I’ve progressed, I’ve tried to let these characters take on a life of their own and evolve apart from their real-life models. I also practice blending individual traits from different acquaintances now, rather than quite as much wholesale recreation of individual people. And I guess you want to do this even more so if really bad things routinely happen to these characters.

    I don’t think there’s anything altogether original in fiction writing. You can choose to borrow from other people’s stories or from real life. I find the latter more unconventional and more honest, so my poor friends will probably never escape my work.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Evan. I too have created characters using composites of at least two people. And then, as you said, the resulting character needs to take on a life of its own.

      We’re literary mad scientists, making people from scraps of others and recreating multiple Frankenstein’s Monsters, as it were, to various ends.

      RST

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