“How have both the people in your life and your own personal experiences impacted your writing? Do you ever base characters off of people you know?”
Yes, yes, yes.
I think all writers are impacted by their personal experiences and people they’ve met over the years.
Writing, in my opinion, is a way to be honest about my feelings and world-view. Without realizing it, bits and pieces of myself, my memories, and friends/family show up in my work.
When I wrote my first novel in the 7th grade, I was motivated by a group of friends who were also writers. We’d meet at lunch and trade pages. And, at the time, it was popular to put each other in our stories.
But I definitely couldn’t have anticipated that these characters (who were supposed to be the fictional versions of my real-life friends) had minds of their own. So I have a rule now: if I decide to slip a friend or family member into my book, I use either their name or their personality, but never both. If I steal their name, the character’s personality is unique. If I use their personality, I definitely don’t use their name.
And this is because I don’t want to apologize if said person is upset by my honesty.
I tried, once, to completely base a character on a cousin. (Only because my cousin Maria and I are good friends, and she was so supportive of my writing.) It didn’t really work out, because, as I mentioned above, the character became her own person. She became one of my favorite characters, actually, but I killed her off at the end. This made for an awkward conversation with my cousin, who, thankfully, didn’t mind.
Another awkward conversation: admitting to your sister that you lied when you said a certain character was based on her but was actually based on another cousin.
Also, I think it’s important to note that many writers base their protagonists on themselves. I was guilty of this when I wrote my first book…it does seem to be more common with beginning novelists. My protagonist was, what I like to call, a better version of myself. She sort of embodied everything I wanted to be, but she also shared my many flaws.
Now, although I am no longer the protagonist of my novels, I recognize parts of myself in many of my characters.
My experiences have also impacted my writing. Not directly, but the experiences themselves give me ideas to draw from. Traveling has inspired my writing in the past. The places I’ve been become the settings of my various works-in-progress. Conversations with friends have made their way into my books.
My memories, experiences, and friends/family have influenced the person I am today. So it’s not even a surprise that these things have influenced my writing as well.
“Where do storytellers find the wisdom to discover their own stories? From no place more mysterious than their own hearts.”
– Marion Dane Bauer
Please visit the other blogs also participating in the chain!
(We’ll be announcing the topic for next month’s chain.)