Saturday, September 13, 2008

Is Family Fair Game?

Is it okay to base characters on your family members?

Well sure. You can do that. But do you want to? Do you want that aunt or uncle to recognize him or her self? It's said that most people will think the wonderful, giving, loving characters are based on them, and the ones that are mean-spirited or ugly are based on some other relative or friend.

Even if that's true, how are you going to feel when Uncle Bill believes the dumb-as-dirt guy in your book was based on your other uncle, and ten other relatives declare that it's clearly Uncle Bill? Whether it is or not!

Especially for the characters that are less than favorably described, make sure no one you know and love could recognize him or her self.

You can use family members in your book, just be selective and discerning. I come from a family of four girls. It’s a bit crazy when we get together. A past get-together of three of us confirmed that. Did I gather some ideas for future books? Oh yeah. Will I use them? No. (At least one sister is occasionally visits Straight From Hel.) Of course not.

Although ... I might use the Minnesota Gnome. And I for sure will use the younger sister's dog, Chaz, in some story. He's a laid-back, quiet as a mouse, big dog who-doesn't-take-up-much-room, with severe separation anxiety. Now that's a dog made for fiction.

And now that I think about it, the entire situation could be hyped up (not much) and be pretty hilarious. Hmm.

Okay, if any of my sisters are reading this, the character in my next manuscript is not you.


  1. I leave my family out of my novels mostly, except for little quirks that I give characters. But they are fair game in my comedy!

  2. I want to go watch one of your comedy appearances! Come down my way.

  3. I have a particularly vicious mother in my book Recipe For Disaster. My Mom often does first proofs as she's an English teacher. When she read that one she said, "Okay, before we go any further I need you to look me in the eye and tell me - is the mother modeled after me?" Ha, what a laugh. And in my book A Well Behaved Woman's Life - everything that happens to the main character is a culmination of all the ladies' stories from one of my Bible studies. I gave them rough drafts and said, "See if you can find yourselves!" They had a blast. I think using real people - but tweaking things - makes my writing much more realistic.

  4. It sounds like you have a very interesting Bible study group! And probably a fun one.

    I like you mom. It sounds as though she has a good sense of humor!

  5. I use people I've met in life as models from which to form characters, sometimes adding this from that person and that from this person. So far no family members. It's something all fiction writers think about, of course. But it could be Veeeeeerry awkard without some tact! }-:>

  6. heh. I used my little brother in MFH, wrote him exactly as I saw him, used his name and he loved it. Probably because his character had the best one liners .

  7. I don't have a little brother, but I think they would be fair game. I know little sisters are!

  8. I decided early on that I would never use anyone I know in my fiction - but it was an easy decision because I wrote fiction in order to escape my life. There was no way I wanted any part of it creeping into my stories. Anyway, the characters I come up with are far more interesting.

  9. This is fun, hearing from writers about whether they do or don't use bits and pieces of relatives.

    Seems to be a mixed response! Thanks to everyone who's contributed.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...