my #SFRB post: Lending Actual People’s Bios to #Fictional #Characters: Pros and Cons

Subtitle: Why everyone who has ever been in a writer’s life should be afraid, VERY afraid!

Writers who invent characters claim they work harder than the rest of us whose characters are drawn from “real” life. How accurate is this claim? Let’s examine the pros and cons of lending actual people’s bios to fictional characters. Then, YOU decide which writers work harder!

Originally posted 3/11/14 in Science-Fiction/Romance Brigade:

1. Actual people already have an appearance, so we can describe instead of straining our imaginations to create features, saving time and energy for generating original plot points and conflicts.

  1. Instead of starting from scratch, we can get a head start on character development by using the people we already know. Then, take whatever liberties we want with their biographies, attitudes, styles, intentions, relationships, even ages, inventing or exaggerating in whatever ways suit our stories.

  2. Some people will feel honored, flattered, amused or intrigued when we let them know we are basing a character on them. Try to choose those people to “borrow” heavily from and not those who would object!

  3. When we put our constellations of former and current relatives, lovers, friends, bosses, colleagues, fellow students, politicians, celebrities and other famous sorts into the skylines of our stories, we can create street riots by having them act out our psychological fantasies, desires, dreams and yearnings without our actually engaging with these people.

  4. Cheaper than therapy, safer than revenge, more satisfying than almost any other way we legally can acquire to work through whatever issues we have with these actual people: write them into our stories. Especially popular is making someone we despised or who betrayed us into a villain or victim. My favorite is to give the heroine or hero a great romance with someone I secretly covet. One murder mystery author’s usual victims or villains are the same type of man…. I wonder which guy pissed her off?

1. Make sure to make the drafted characters mostly unrecognizable to avoid the range of possible consequences, from hurt feelings to lawsuits.

  1. Getting permissions can be difficult to obtain, so choose carefully and disguise well.

  2. Even when we make the fictional characters “better” than the originals, the originals may not be happy with our versions. Be prepared.

  3. Keeping straight in the writer’s mind who is who requires a pseudonyms list. Try to avoid calling your actual people by their characters’ names in public.

  4. Changing key details, relationships, and/or circumstances can feel like “cheating,” but may be necessary for everything to work well. If you give the murderer one child because your murderer’s counterpart has one but you need your murderer to have two for a plot point, give him two and REMEMBER than you did. Maintain a spreadsheet of important dates, alterations to “actual” characters’ events, and other changes or you run the risk of causing yourself and possibly your readers undue confusion.

Those who start with “real” and then expand into fictional characters must be sharply focused and spend extra time to keep it all clear. Therefore, I declare the winner of the harder working among writers to be US!

Be careful and have fun!

Sally Ember, Ed.D., is a published nonfiction author and produced playwright whose sci-fi/ romance/speculative/utopian/paranormal/multiverse fiction for YA, New Adult and Adults, The Spanners Series, has two Volumes available by June 9, 2014, and eight more to come. Sally also has had short stories and articles published and has co-written, edited, and proofread multiple media. Sally was raised Jewish and is a practicing Buddhist meditator. She is also an almost-daily swimmer, a mediocre singer/pianist, avid feminist, dreamer, and devoted mother/ sister/ aunt/ daughter/ cousin/ friend. Sally has worked as an educator and upper-level, nonprofit manager in colleges, universities and private nonprofits for over thirty-five years in New England (every state), New Mexico and the San Francisco Bay Area (where she now lives). Sally has a BA in Elementary Education, a Master’s (M.Ed.) and a doctorate in education (Ed.D.).

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This Changes Everything, Vol. I, The Spanners Series by Sally Ember, Ed.D.
Dr. Clara Ackerman Branon, Ph.D., 58, is having the first of many home visits from holographic representations of five beings from the Many Worlds Collective (MWC), a consortium of planet and star systems all around the multiverse, over a thirty-year, increasingly Utopian period. Earth is being invited to join, formally, and the December, 2012, visit is the first one allowed to be made public. Making the existence of the MWC public means many Earthers have to adjust our beliefs and ideas about life, religion, culture, identity and, well, everything we think and are. Clara becomes the liaison— the Chief Communicator—between Earth and the MWC. This Changes Everything relates the events partly from her point of view, partly from records of meetings of varying groups of the MWC governing bodies, and partly from her Media Contact, Esperanza Enlaces, employing humor, poignancy, a love story, family issues, MWC’s mistakes and blunders, history, politics, paranormalcy and hope.

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This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, Vol. II, The Spanners Series by Sally Ember, Ed.D., goes into Pre-orders via Smashwords, Kobo, iBooks and nook April 15-18, 2014 and releases everywhere, including Amazon, June 9, 2014.

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