We’ve all done it. We’ve been writing away, and suddenly that hilarious turn of phrase that your grandmother uses every Christmas Day pops into your head. It’s funny, it’s endearing, and it would be perfect coming out of the mouth of one of your characters. But is it allowed, using our nearest and dearest as the basis of our characters?
There’s also the opposite path – writing about people that you dislike! What revenge could be sweeter than immortalising that horrible person you know by using them as a basis for the enemy of your hero…you know, the one that gets pounded into the ground at the end.
Of course, there must be people that I love – whether I’m related to them, or they are some of my closest friends – that probably haven’t even thought about it. I’m sure the majority of them would be astounded if they knew I had smiled at some of their jokes…and then used them within my book. Or noticed a way that a female friend pushed her hair behind her ears, a habit which I have definitely included in a character.
And it wasn’t until a new friend asked me how I envisioned my protagonists that I admitted to her (without naming names) that whenever I wrote my first book, I tried to imagine it, with a very close friend playing my female protagonist. Does this close friend know that I tried out dialogue through her lips? No. Would I ever tell her? Definitely not.
Why is this? I’m not ashamed to use my friends and family in this way…am I? After all, the majority of what I write comes from my medieval historical research, and my imagination. Perhaps it’s because I’m afraid of being accused of ‘cheating’ by other authors – does it count as my own work if I’ve kind of borrowed it from my brother?
Films and books now include a phrase similar to the title of this post. But can we as authors ever truly write a book without any influence from our nearest and dearest? I challenge any author to say that they’ve never been inspired by someone they met once, or saw across the train, or had breakfast with.
Because the way I see it, everything I do and everyone I meet ends up, one way or another, in my work. And I hope my friends and family wouldn’t have it any other way…