As a writer you are always out there collecting things; turns of phrase, smells, observations, events and even *shock* stories. But, despite what friends and family think, it is actually rare that I will come across a person upon whom I want to base an entire character. If I base anything on a real person it is usually just an unconscious tick, or mannerism, or even a regularly used incorrect word. But it is never a whole package.
Well, almost never.
On rare occasions, when there are two full moons in the month or the planets are aligned, you find a person so complete with neuroses and bizarre beliefs (that you would never be able to concoct) that you just want to lift them up and squash them into your computer. This raises the eternal conundrum of the writer; just because you can, should you?
You quickly learn that something like 90% of your friends, family & acquaintances never read anything you write, so it is probably safe to lift bits from them and they will never be the wiser. Coupled with this is the amusing fact that most of the stuff you want to lift from someone they are not even aware of, so will not recognise it anyway. But others might, especially when it comes to a whole character. So do you take these perfectly formed characters and put them into your story, or not?
So far I haven’t done it, but temptation has been hard to resist, especially when I move out of the realm of speculative fiction. I would love to know what other writers do when it comes to this challenge. Do you change enough to not be too familiar, or do you just come out with a bold-faced lie when asked by your character’s inspiration if the person is based on them?
Until I know the answer to that question you can be sure that my character is not based on you. But the way they tug their ear, flare their nostrils, or say desiccated when they mean desecrated, well sorry, but that could be you. I won’t let those gems slip through my fingers.