Ever killed a friend?

“Don’t annoy the writer.  They may put you in a book and kill you.”


     It seems a popular idea that writers create characters based specifically on people they know or have crossed paths with in life.  Having not [intentionally] done so myself, I was curious how many writers actually do this.  Have you ever written a person – a friend, an enemy, a coworker, relative – from your life into one of your stories?

     Personally, I’ve always been afraid that whoever I wrote into my stories would catch on and become upset.  I have, of course, taken experiences from my life, and drawn from it mannerisms and outlooks which inspire characters, scenes and arcs.  But I often make a point of altering these enough so that it’s not a direct or obvious reference to someone in a way that might hurt them.  Truth is, any writing can be unflattering, even if we try to portray a character in the best possible light.  The only true exception is when a person you write into your stories happens to be so vain and oblivious in real life that they think the world of their fictional vicar.  An “I’m in a book/movie!” sense of personal self-adoration that somehow deludes the person into thinking that the character based on them is a model of perfection.

     So what are your thoughts?  Do you intentionally write people you know into your stories?  Accidentally?  Has anyone ever caught on?  Were they pleased or upset?


4 thoughts on “Ever killed a friend?

  1. No, I think the existing title is very effective. *grin*

    The only time I have intentionally modeled a character after a real-life person was in a co-op work. My co-author and I were both trying to mimic ourselves in our characters, so that was a bit different.

    I have named my characters after friends before. I usually make the friends aware early in the process, and they’re generally flattered. :) While I haven’t intentionally tried to make theses characters like their namesakes, one turned out shockingly similar. It was strange, but my friend didn’t mind at all. (She was the one that pointed out the similarities.)

    I draw from real-life experiences a lot, and sometimes I will give a character a personality trait (especially, a like/dislike) in honor of a friend or family member. However, with the exception of the co-op work, I have never tried to write someone into my novels. For the reasons you stated, I’d be hesitant to do that without their permission. Plus, I’ve found it’s hard to realistically mimic people with book characters – it’s even harder to portray yourself!

    Great post. Thanks for sharing. :)

  2. The closest I have come to writing a friend into a story was with my latest werewolf short story. Josh Hart is one of my buddies at work. I asked if I could use his name and he was thrilled with the idea. His title at work is deputy, so I made the character a deputy as well.

    The character had a few of my buddies personality traits, but at some point I stopped associating the name with my friend and went with the character. The result? Josh was happy and so was I. Even though in one seen the character was…well, naked. Haha!

  3. I flat-out told a buddy of mine that, not only was I basing a character on him (I even gave the character a similar nickname), but that he was going to die near the end. Once I assured him that he would go out like a champ, he was psyched.

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