I was reading a post on Facebook the other day and it read, “Never tick off a writer or they might kill you off in their next book!” I laughed, but that also started me thinking about this segment of my blog. How often do you use friends and family as the basis for a story idea? Should you be cautious? How far should you go in your characterizations, or plot lines?
Guilty. Watch out, friends and family, you could recognize yourself in one of my characters, but never to the point that someone will point at the book and say, “Oh my God, that’s you!” I use bits of personality, bits of physical appearance, and a few direct quotes when I use friends and family as the basis for a character. If I want to use a name, I’ll ask. In my book, Captured In Lies, one of the Secret Service men is named after a friend of mine. I asked his permission first, and he was delighted to be immortalized in print.
It’s my advice to use caution when drawing from family history, or a story that was told to you by a friend. If it becomes tempting to use it in a book, it’s always best to ask permission and then mention them in the acknowledgements. Once I wrote a story about a friend of mine and his reconnection with an old love through social media. I did get his permission to write the story, but didn’t go far enough and ask his love interest. I may have hit a little too close to home with the story, because I think it caused some friction in their relationship. Lesson learned.
Before you get yourself in hot water, I’d examine the story. Possibly pull bits and pieces and then disguise any direct relevance in another plot line or character description. Truth is stranger than fiction, so friends and family, unfortunately, become great novel fodder, but you don’t have to rub anyone’s nose in it.
Copyright 2014 by Kelly Abell