. There’s always that disclaimer in the front of books now ‘the events and character portrayed herein a entirely fictitious and have no basis in reality’ or some such words. I wonder how true that is? They always use that before Law and Order, but I’ve recognised several of those cases as being real (and not in the ones they use ‘inspired by real life events either). And I wonder how that disclaimer first started? Did someone recognise themselves in a book and sue?
I often use real life people in my work. Usually it’s a celebrity, whose persona I use, or an actor, who’s look I’ll borrow – but that doesn’t mean the character I’m writing is based entirely on them. How can it be, when I know my character inside out, and I know nothing of the celebrity or actor?
But just occasionally, I admit it now, I do use people I know. Never for my good characters, or the really nastily evil ones – they are usually aspects of myself. Just for the minor bit part players, and usually the annoying ones.
It’s a great release of frustration, after an annoying day, to come and characterise that irritating person as a toad, or a snooty little snob getting their comeuppance. The problem will come if I ever publish – I must make sure that person is unrecognisable to themselves, they must look different, perhaps behave different. And it mustn’t be someone I actually know presently (imagine acing them across the office after they’ve just read a very unflattering description of themselves – whether they know it or not!). And I can’t use a real life situation – I suspect that really would be grounds for being sued, if I used words they’d actually spoken.
After all that diluting, is it worth it? Yes because someone, deep down in the core of that unrecognisable little two line character, is the core of someone who’s real. I may not have time or energy to give them a character, so I’ll steal one – and hope the owner doesn’t notice. (Especially when the little two line character gets squished for no good reason….)
P.S. – Absolutely no-one I know (and who is likely to read this) has ever been portrayed in any of my works of fiction, and never will be. Honestly.