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Basing Characters off people you know:

Has anyone here based a character in one of their works off someone they knew personally? Did they ever find out? How did they react to this? Just share your experiences with this.

 2 tsstevens, Wed, 13th Feb '13 7:19:04 AM from Internet, Tasmania Relationship Status: She's holding a very large knife
Researcher
I do this a fair bit. When I did it in school it was met with amusement. One of the bad guys in the novel I'm writing, let's call him Callous Badman, he was a unrepentant thug. There's someone else who's a good guy based on who I know. Enrica Goss is based on a Constable I spoke to. Another is based off a well known local criminal, and part of the plot (the youth gangs) is based on a series of incidents that took place fourteen years ago when there was this one gang and they were on a rampage as well as other incidents that had actually taken place. I think if anyone were to find out I'd be in trouble but where I would know the names I would make up different ones and change the details enough so the two cannot be linked and I would have to make up names anyway for when i don't know who they are, so basing it off true events I hope will give it that realism.
The mark of a good story means not feeling like The Angry Video Game Nerd hearing it.
 3 Mr AHR, Wed, 13th Feb '13 10:23:15 AM from ಠ_ಠ Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Ahr river
I tend to do it vaguely. Mostly look at the variety in a person and try to emulate it.
 4 Dudeacus 97, Wed, 13th Feb '13 2:43:55 PM from United States
I did this to one of my friends, but that was after I asked him. He thinks it's hilarious, even though he's a crazy Butt Monkey who gets launched across the room by telekinesis all the time. He is also one of the funniest people I know and the foundation of most of my sense of humor. He's also somewhat of a Cloud Cuckoo Lander in his logic (I have to correct him on many things) and I swear that we're like an example of Straight Man and Wise Guy when we're together.

Another one of my friends insists on being put in (even if he walks in and gets killed after a few pages), probably as an Ultimate Blacksmith, but I'm not featuring him.

I'd say more than half my characters are loosely based on real people I know. Two of them know. So far they don't mind at all, but they haven't read the finished work yet. So I hope they still like it when it's finished.

 6 JHM, Wed, 13th Feb '13 3:42:31 PM from Neither Here Nor There Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
While I nearly never consciously base characters on people that I know—I find it lazy and betimes a touch creepy—elements of certain individuals do leak into the way that I write specific characters. But I think that's perfectly natural: As writers, we aim for verisimilitude; to that end, we write what we know, intentionally or not.
 7 kalel 94, Wed, 13th Feb '13 4:50:13 PM from Dragonstone
Rascal King
I did this with a couple of friends. I would give the characters the same first names as the friends, and some of their qualities, but I made sure that all the negative qualities they had were ones that I had also (at the time, at least): Laziness, elitism, etc. I asked one of the friends to proofread a bit of it, and he was definitely suspicious, but I don't think he held it against me.
The last hurrah? Nah, I'd do it again.
I usually don't directly base characters off people I know. (I take aspects and that's about it) I thought about basing two characters off two of my teachers because they have a very hilarious dynamic with each other, only it could get misconstrued as Ho Yay extremely easily (despite the fact they're both married and straight). And the Misaimed Fandom that would probably end up shipping them would be infinite levels of squick for me.
  • That's the only problem with directly basing characters off people you know. If people interpret them as The Scrappy or similar Alternative Character Interpretation, they're unintentionally insulting someone you know (Unless you dislike that person, then it really doesn't matter)

edited 13th Feb '13 5:11:46 PM by TheMuse

Andrew Mcmann
I occasionally just take a bunch of first and last names and mix them up, and then try to base the characters off what i think that combination would be like, but i don't think I've ever based a character off them completely.
I don't understand, why do you want me to write a signature line?
Dapper Gentleman
A major character in my novel takes aspects of his personality and appearance from two of my high school teachers (who are nothing like each other, really, the character is sort of an averaging of the two). Or at least, that's the source of his apparent personality. Who he actually is is up for debate. Basing characters off of real people isn't usually my style, but this one is, in fact, a high school teacher at the beginning of the story, so I decided to use my memories for reference.
"And every life is a special story of its own." —The Stargazer, Mass Effect 3
 11 Wheezy, Wed, 13th Feb '13 10:40:04 PM from Tampa, FL. Again.
(That Guy You Met Once)
Yes.
 12 Prime of Perfection, Thu, 14th Feb '13 3:00:35 AM Relationship Status: P.S. I love you
A noble thief is not seen, heard, or felt
It's a mixture in the answers, but yes. Usually I'll design the character on my own first and work to figure out who they are. Once I know who they are, I then can use friends who are similar to them to better make them come alive even more. For instance, I have a character who is a bit silly. I keep notes from talking style, little quotes, etc. that certain friends make to help continue making them feel like real people alongside have their own talking styles.

I try not to do that. If I wanted to portray a character that was based off of someone I knew accurately, I'd have to include what I perceive as flaws, which would come across as insulting. If I did base a character off of someone I knew, I'd try to make it as far from obvious as possible and deny it if brought up.

patience, young padawan
There have been times during development where I've realized that a given character reminds me of someone I know in life, but I shrug and usually forget about it a week later.

edited 14th Feb '13 11:54:40 AM by CrystalGlacia

 15 nrjxll, Thu, 14th Feb '13 12:45:01 PM Relationship Status: Not war
When I originally began writing my comics, it was in a group of several people I knew who were all writing Stick Figure Comics. We all wrote characters named after and loosely based on each other. And that's pretty much the only kind of situation when I would ever do so: when it's with the explicit approval and some degree of oversight from the real people in question.

 16 Wolf 1066, Thu, 14th Feb '13 5:04:30 PM from New Zealand Relationship Status: In my bunk
Wolf1066
I use real people as inspiration for my characters but the characters are never an exact match - even when they are largely based on one particular person.

I tend to make "composites" where I take this bit from him and that from her and base his relationship with another character on those two over there.

If the character borrows largely from a particular person, things like faults are changed to something that the person concerned doesn't exhibit.

I'd not drop a character that's an exact duplicate of a real person into a fictional story unless it were a historical fiction and the character is supposed to be that real person.

Non-fiction stories become a case of "The Names Have Been Changed To Protect The Guilty".
Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
Yeah, some of my characters end up noticeably resembling people I know but that's expected. Although the last thing I did somehow managed to end up with nobody really much like anyone I know, so score 1 for creativity I guess?

I made a bunch of 'journal comic' type scripts when I was in uni, mostly based off events in real life and online conversations with my high school friends. Bit late to do the journal comic now but I still really like them so eventually I'd like to turn them into a little slice-of-life miniseries with made-up characters. Since most of the dialogue is taken word-for-word from people I know I expect to end up with the characters being pretty familiar, but you never know.

Seriously though, did you ever look around at your friends and realise that you make up a perfectly rounded roster of wacky sitcom stereotypes? Because that seems to happen to me pretty much whenever I make friends. Don't know if it's some kind of perception thing or if I just have awesome friends.

edited 15th Feb '13 4:36:59 PM by Kesteven

 18 JHM, Sun, 17th Feb '13 5:20:26 AM from Neither Here Nor There Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
[up] A lot of my conversations sound like Wes Anderson dialogue. It's kind of weird.
All of my characters in my comic book are people I know. They know too and let me use them for the comic book. Some of them liked it, some didn't, and some wondered why.

I like what JHM said, "we write what we know, intentionally or not." Pretty much all the great works of writing were based of what the author knew. It's the only way to make a story feel real and grounded.

One of the characters in my work doesn't speak English as his first language. One of my teachers is a ESL speaker, so I thought it'd be a good idea to use that as one of my references for the sake of realism and to avoid You No Take Candle. I ended up realizing shortly after beginning to develop the character more that some other aspects of him managed to slip in as well. A little odd, but I don't think anyone who knows him in real life could point it out without knowing about it beforehand

edited 18th May '13 5:29:46 PM by TheMuse

 22 Wolf 1066, Sun, 19th May '13 2:55:11 AM from New Zealand Relationship Status: In my bunk
Wolf1066
I frequently use my ESL friends for the same purpose - being careful to ensure that the friend I choose has the same native language as the character to ensure they speak realistically - I'm mindful that their way of speaking English stems from the structure of their own language.

Since most of my ESL friends are Chinese or German, my ESL characters tend to be as well.
Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
Elvenking
My friend begged and begged to be made into a character in my W.I.P., so now I threaten to kill him off every time he annoys me tongue! I take little bits from other people and integrate them into my own characters frequently. Even people I don't know personally, but i 'know' through the media etc. (I based one off David Attenborough), and I admit to taking some from fictional characters as well.
 24 Khantalas, Sun, 19th May '13 3:26:37 AM from ((Not actually a creepy adorable little girl.))
Creepy adorable little girl
I keep reading ESL as English Sign Language for some reason, because it didn't occur to me that it could mean "English as a second language".

I don't base entire characters on people I know, but I have based a character's stutters on someone I know with a heavy stutter, so people can tell the difference between when she is stuttering and when she is merely hesitating.
"Be mine, dear big brother."
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Total posts: 24
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