Do writers really put you in their books? #amwriting #writing

Some writers (A) are very open about putting people they know in their book, whether it is revenge (never be mean to a writer), or for less nefarious reasons (I admire you, I love you, I like you, you are fun, you are interesting).

Some writers (B) deny all, even vague, linkage between real people and the fictional characters in their book.

I’m going to let you into a secret. If you know a writer . . . you are almost certainly, okay definitely, in their book!

So, are these writers (B) lying? Are they seeking to mislead you?

No, not really, it’s more of a—subconscious inclusion—that a writer cannot possibly help.

The thing is, that a writer crafts their story out of their imagination, which is made up of everything they have ever seen, everything they have ever heard, and everything they have ever read. And while much of this input is from other works of fiction, a large percentage of it comes from everyday life, and that’s right—the writer’s friends, family, and colleagues . . . and even their pets!


I collect names. I love names, especially quirky, or interesting names. Whenever I hear a name that I like, I jot it down. I might not have a character for it yet, or maybe I will rename an old character because I like it better. Either way, names are something we often consciously, or subconsciously use (and even avoid).


Yep, I collect personalities too. Now, you may be FREAKING OUT if your writer friend has put a character with your name in their book who is a complete buffoon! Is that how the writer sees you?

Not quite. Writers have a tendency to mash things together. A friends name (who is not a buffoon), may be merged with another person they know who is really clumsy, and the random guy from the petrol station who couldn’t work out how to use the pump, and their pet dog who is adorably loopy! Yep, all this really does go into a single character. And then they give it YOUR name! And they are not all even human, or the same sex! That’s just wrong!

That’s writers for you.


By now, you are probably getting a bit of an idea of how this works. And let me tell you that appearance is the worst one of all. It’s like a manic identikit has been let lose on the fictional world. Hair from this person, eyes from that person, body build from that person, a little magic dust, and voila, you have a complete abomination—just kidding, they turn out fine, mostly.

So, in answer to the above question ‘do writers really put you in their book’,  the answer is still, yes, they most certainly do. 🙂

62 thoughts on “Do writers really put you in their books? #amwriting #writing

  1. I completely agree – almost all my characters are based on actual people, or amalgamations of people. And I get the collecting names thing – I have a little notebook where I scribble them in as I come across them 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  2. When I was married, my s-i-l announced at one point that she and a friend were writing a novel. She also announced that it was in no way autobiographical, and none of the characters bore any relationship to any real people.

    My wife and I received this information with polite interest and general encouragement. Then we giggled quietly when we got home.

    Some time later, I commented to my wife that I hadn’t heard about novel in a while. Apparently the s-i-l had abruptly realized that the book was actually quite autobiographical.

    She dropped it, never mentioned it again, and, to the best of my knowledge, never wrote another word.

    On the other hand, I once took something that the s-i-l said and gave it to one of my characters. The character wasn’t based on her — I’d created the character, based on another woman, years before I met her — but it did fit.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I once read another writers work which also felt very autobiographical such that I became a little uncomfortable! And funny when you write something that later turns out to be close to someone real 🙂 I guess we are not so unique 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’d love to say they are all fresh constructs of a brilliant imagination… yet I suspect if you checked them you’d find my memory dna coursing through their little bloodless veins. I’m a Dr Frankenstein in this regard never putting anyone real into a work of fiction – well, apart from my mother in law since you simply couldn’t make her up.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Funny story on this topic. My neighbor read a couple of my books and kept bugging me to be a character in my upcoming novel. After several times asking me about it, he got his wish. I made him a DEA agent, which at first he was pleased with. Then he kept reading and discovered he was in charge of giving the main characters body cavity searches. Filed under ‘be careful what you wish for’.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. All writing is personal. This may explain why people sometimes avoid writers?
    Seriously, though, it helps if you are writing in a genre that allows you distance, or at least the illusion of distance, from every day life, such as science fiction.
    I could never write a memoir (although, never say never).

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The heck with living well being the best revenge. Writing someone you know into a novel, beats that, hands down. I write a series of fast-paced, comic crime stories that poke a ton of satirical fun at L.A. life, crime, murder, sex and the enterainment industry. And, so far, I’ve killed off one former boss, a professor from college and a few more. Not only that, they’ve all died in funny, embarassing ways. Like getting popped in the men’s room of Beverly Hills deli, while standing at the urinal, in the middle of a cell phone conversation with your impossible to please, classic Jewish mother. God, I hope Karma’s got a sense of humor!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Awww…thanks, Petra. The irony ios, I spent 40 years in advertising, as a copywriter and creative director. I was actually paid to be a wise-ass.

        Liked by 3 people

  7. Hi Georgina,
    In my front matter of my book, I tell the reader this is fiction. Yet, I have been accused of misrepresenting the main character as myself. Any time now that I market my book, I have to make a clear statement the character is not me. So building your characters too well can backfire too. Yet, it is fun developing them into believable people. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. When I was working at a local university, one of the doctor’s said, “this isn’t a job for you, it’s research.” I hadn’t thought about that until I came across your post.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Hi Georgina,

    Yes, I do use ‘certain’ people and ‘events’ in my novels though both are heavily disguised so that only the others involved may recognize this. For me this is a sort of escape valve given I worked on all kinds of confidential and secret projects over the years prior to becoming a full-time author and this is much cheaper than a psychiatrist ;-).

    Also I run a competition on my website where anyone can win a character named after them in one of my thrillers. Thus far twelve people have appeared in the books through this avenue, some more than once as their characters have reappeared in sequels. I always stress that I only use the person’s name and no other characteristic (always with their written permission too) and they get a kick out of seeing themselves doing daring deeds on the page. Thus far I haven’t killed any off though; I leave that for others from my past…

    Best wishes,

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Almost all my fictional characters are composites of many real life people, but occasionally I base a character completely on one person if there’s something about their personality that is so singular and unique that it must be presented as is and not mixed with other lesser personalities.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Lol, The characteristics of the characters. When friends read my books I always hear…”hey, that’s what I’d say” or “that’s how I act.” I smile secretly knowing that’s because it’s you, crazy.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. It’s not even conscious at times. I’ve handed a story over to a friend to read only to have them look at it and go ‘omg, this character here is ____ isn’t it?”

    Liked by 1 person

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