On Basing Characters on Friends


Morning Friend!

I realised this morning that I’ve become ‘that person’ who has taken up almost permanent office space at a local cafe. But thats the domain of the writer, right? Cabin fever at home lead me to seek refuge outside the home to where there are no dishes, no clothes to wash and iron, no window sills to dust.

Let’s be clear: I am a terrible domestic fail and this only changes when I am trying to procrastinate. At that point I am awesome! Get down on one’s hands and knees and scrubb the floor that does not need scrubbing? Why YES! Of course I want to do that. Because I don’t want to do what comes next for my character. I don’t want to hurt him.

So back to the cafe. (It’s called Redd Catt by the way. It’s great). The barista boys were joking around saying they’ll be looking for themselves as characters in my next book. It lead me to think about that big question I get asked as a writer/author – “Can you base a character on me?”

Short answer: No.

I learned this lesson early on. I based a character, albeit a main character on two guys I know. The character became a hybrid of the two. It worked for a while, until I started to ask “What would friend A/friend B do in this situation?” Then it all went to rubbish. I ended up seriously blocked on it for a few months. I had to go back and reinvent the character separate from anyone in my life. Then it started to flow again.

It’s inevitable that people will look at a character and see themselves in it – hence the disclaimer most authors put on the imprint page. But I actually think that good characters should be relatable, imperfect and individual. So if people relate to them – fine! I may also accidentally put characteristics in from people that I love (or hate!), but I steer well clear of basing characters on friends now.

Question for other writers: What do you do?



One thought on “On Basing Characters on Friends

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  1. Haha, I love this! I am totally the same way. I tell myself I am more focused at a cafe, but in reality it’s just different forms of procrastination 🙂 I think that basing characters entirely on real people would be challenging, especially when trying to put them in usual or unrealistic situations. You would get too caught up (like you said) in what your real life friend would do, instead of their character. Personally, I try to see my characters as their own people. But it is a nice touch to add elements of real life people, to make them come to life and feel relatable.

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