There's Nothing LIke Real People In Fiction


There are two common sayings that makes every newbie novelist cringe:
Write what you know.
Truth is stranger than fiction.
Now, if you’re anything like I was when I first started writing, you’re going to want to stop reading right here and now. Seriously? What self-respecting fiction writer wants to be told to put her brilliant imagination on the shelf and write what she knows? Back then, I used to ask, “Who’s going to pay to read a novel about a poor farm girl in a small West Virginia town?”
Then we have the whole issue about truth being stranger than fiction. Hey, you haven’t checked out my imagination yet.
After you’ve finished throwing your hissy fit, hear me out.
I’m not saying to lock your imagination up and never let it out. Characteristics or even whole flesh and blood people can breathe life into fictional work.
Some of literature’s most successful authors have based their iconic characters on real people or, at the very least, have used some of their most distinguishing traits.
Arthur Conan Doyle admitted that he based his famous detective Sherlock Holmes on Joseph Bell, a Scottish surgeon and lecturer at the medical school of the University of Edinburgh in the 19th century. While working as his clerk, Doyle was struck with Bell’s talent for observation, which was Sherlock Holmes’ most distinctive trait. As a matter of fact, like Sherlock Holmes, Bell assisted the local police in investigations.
Another example: The Potions Master, who taught Harry Potter many lessons during his time at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Professor Severus Snape, is based on John Netteship, J.K. Rowling’s chemistry teacher at Wyedean School.
Also, practically every crime fiction writer I know has confessed to killing a former or present boss once or multiple times between the pages of a book. Doing so can be quite therapeutic.

Read the entire article in the September 2018 issue of InD'Tale magazine.

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