Readers often ask authors if the characters in their stories are based on their real friends, acquaintances, or even enemies. The answer is, quite frankly, yes.
There are two common maxims for writers. One is the advice that writers should write about what they know. On the surface, this is both obvious and absurd because, of course, how could you write about something you don’t even know about? But I appreciate this intent of this maxim because it makes me research thoroughly as I strive for accuracy and authenticity so that readers are not distracted by errors or by unrealistic and therefore unbelievable situations.
The other writing maxim says something to the effect that everything is material, or everything is fodder for the story. This advice speaks to the inspiration of writers from observing people, locations and events in their own lives, and reflecting on them before translating them into art. I admit that now that I am writing, many of my past experiences are showing up on the written page with a new perspective and I am observing current situations differently, sometimes with a view of describing them to a reader in the future.
In chapter 11 of my novel, Elephant in the Room, the Harvey family volunteers at a food bank. The food bank coordinator greets the crowd before explaining the ministry and giving instructions for the work the volunteers will perform that day. The coordinator character in my book is based on a real person, Liana Hofer, who for several years was the Volunteer Coordinator at Children’s Hunger Fund in Sylmar, California. Liana always greeted us enthusiastically, took a few minutes to give updates about the latest worldwide outreach for CHF, then turned it over to David Rodrigues for instructions about our volunteer work for the day. I am thankful for the opportunities my family has had to serve at CHF and would encourage you to look for ways to volunteer in your local community.
Other fictional characters in my writing have been inspired by real people, too. Often one character is an amalgamation of traits from several real people. I was also a bit surprise to see a little bit of myself in many of the characters. But don’t feel self-conscious when I spend time with you. I won’t pull out a notebook and start writing about you; I would rather just enjoy your company.
Did you see it? A sneak peek at my book, Elephant in the Room? We are in the final editing phase and are hoping to release it in June. Please sign up to follow my blog for updates on the release! You can also read more about it on my webpage about Elephant in the Room.