I often get the question, “Are your characters based on real people?”
My answer is yes and no.
To answer the question properly, I need to tell you how I develop my characters.
When I see a person who does something, or says something that grabs my attention in a big way, I begin to make him/her into a story character. Of course, when I’m finished with my story character, he/she is no longer remotely close to the person who caught my attention in the first place. However, the substance of that person was the first building blocks for creating my story character, so I like to think that a part of my story character is real.
An alternative book cover for The Alkahest
Not all my story characters are created this way. Some are a conglomeration of traits gathered from many personality types to produce the right story character for the role.
I would never use a real person in my stories because real people are boring in fiction. Story characters must be many times exaggerated and then some. They must be grander than life. Having said that, story characters are more reasonable in what they say or do. They have to be for the reader to understand them. In real life, people do irrational things, and we don’t understand why. In fiction, the reader understands why story characters do the things they do. They need to for the story to make sense to them.
“The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.” – Tom Clancy
That is the great thing about fiction and one of the main reasons that I love to write fiction – it’s different than life, more exaggerated than life is and far more versatile. My characters can do so much more, be so much more, and change so much faster than in real life.
I read and write fiction to escape everyday life. Real life people have their moments, but in fiction, the story characters, by far, outshine reality in a grandiose way.