Who Is This Character Based Upon?

Real People HAVE Inspired Many of My Characters

By Jeff Salter

This week, our topic is “Has anyone ever asked you to add them to one of your stories?” and “Have you told anyone that you were basing a character on them?”

My answers: yes and yes.

Let me explain.

First, I’ll respond to the initial half of that topic. [“Has anyone ever asked you to add them to one of your stories?”] Actually, I hear this a lot, but usually the suggestion is made – presumably in jest – in phrasing like this: “When are you going to put me in one of your books?” Or, alternately, “You should put me in one of your books.”

To which, I usually smile and say something like, “You’ll be in the next science fiction story.” Or, alternatively, “I already did write you as a character, but he/she broke all four limbs in an avalanche… and ended up in a body cast.”

The most specific interaction I’ve had along these lines — fairly recently — was when I was in the office of my computer guru, admiring all his whiz-bang gizmos. I said something like “you could probably hack the Pentagon computers from here.” To which he replied, “You should write me into one of your books.”

Now, before I delve into my response to the second half of this topic, let me explain that I’ve put MYSELF – or a character closely based upon me – in three novels of my Somerset Series. [Two of these – Hid Wounded Reb and Called to Arms Again – have been published, but the first title in that series is still in a heavily overhauled manuscript.]

Some of you are perhaps surprised that I’d write a character closely based upon myself. But that series is set here in Somerset, on the property that’s been in my wife’s family since 1803, in the time frame that each title was written (2006-2008)… so it was difficult to extract myself from those plots. That character is named Joe Sutton. He and his wife, Diane Sutton, live exactly where we lived when I wrote those novels — the Williams family farmhouse built in 1925. Denise has recognized “herself” but has not said much either way about how she’s depicted. For my “Joe” character, I made a significant barrier: the reader never sees or “hears” Joe speak. Yes, the reader is informed what Joe has said, but it’s always relayed by the narrator or through another character reporting what he/she heard (from Joe). I no longer remember all the reasons I placed this distance from the Joe character, but I do recall that it was a tricky business for all the other characters to speak in real time… except Joe, who’s present in many of those same scenes and from whom we hear only RELAYED dialog.who-has-inspired-characters

Okay, now I finally get to the second half of today’s topic [“Have you told anyone that you were basing a character on them?”]

In those same three titles of the Somerset Series, a few characters appear in more than one novel. The most, however, appear in only one story, “Called to Arms Again.” In that particular novel – besides Denise and I as Diane and Joe Sutton – I have at least seven characters who were inspired by real-life individuals. One of the main supporting characters, Pete Henley, was inspired by Master Sergeant C.E. “Gene” Hansford, who has since passed away. Not only did I tell him he was the inspiration for my character, but I loaned him one of the working manuscripts of that novel before it was published… so he could see how I’d depicted him. He later purchased the published novel and I inscribed it to him, noting he was the inspiration for my Henley character.

Of the other main supporting characters, two were based on relatives of my wife: Chet “Pop” Walter was inspired by my late father-in-law, Charles Williams… and Wade was inspired by her first cousin Wink. Both of them knew those characters were inspired by them and both seemed to be pleased by their portrayals.

Other characters of that series are based on Denise’s kin, including her late mother (Rita Williams) who inspired Irene Henley, and her cousin Richard, who inspired Roger Jenkins. Rita seemed genuinely pleased at “her” character… and I believe Richard enjoyed seeing his alter ego on my pages.

My own mother (Doris Salter) inspired the minor character Miss Dottie Daniels… and she was delighted to see “her” character appear on the pages.

Not related to anybody in my circle, the late Albert Self – a maintenance supervisor I worked with for several years – served as the inspiration for my supporting character, Herb.

Reading this, you may think it odd that this particular novel featured so many characters inspired by real-life individuals. Not so odd, however, when you consider this novel is my tribute to the Greatest Generation — very fitting, I thought, to immortalize several of those individuals (and all but Mr. Self knew that they’d inspired one of my characters).

[JLS # 463]


About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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18 Responses to Who Is This Character Based Upon?

  1. jbrayweber says:

    I get the feeling most authors probably have people suggesting the put them int the author’s stories. I don’t ever actually base characters off any particular person. However, I might have someone in mind, especially if they share traits. I also feel like a little of me goes into some of the characters, too.
    When I’m asked to put someone in a book, I generally just say OK but add they may be killed off. No guarantees. *shrug*
    What’s surprising is that more than a handful of guys I know suggest I put them on my covers. *smh*

    Liked by 2 people

  2. For the first time, since I’ve been writing, I actually did base a character on someone I know. Yes, I asked permission. Since I said I don’t do this in an earlier reply to the blog this week, let me explain what happened.

    A couple of days ago, I started my next book, Treasures in a Field. As I was gathering my research information, and thinking about the characters who would make up the story, I loosely created a character who will show up near the middle. That character will be a dog. Having animals in my stories has become a tradition with me, and they usually serve a purpose rather than being just a fur-face for the hero/heroine to pet. (Not telling how this canine will serve in the plot) So far, I’ve only used animals who have been my own pets. But this little rascal, owned by a friend of ours, popped into my head, and I thought, he’s perfect.

    After I set my mind on him as the character, it occurred to me that the owner may have something to say about this since I planned to use the dog’s real name. So I sent off an email to check if it was okay. In the process of writing the email, I realized that the owner of the dog in my story reminded me of the real owner (this was purely unintentional, but I guess in the back of my mind, they belonged together). Yep, you guessed it. I also asked if I could use her as a basis for my human character. Her reply was something like, “Sure, as long as you don’t make me into a serial killer.” LOL No problem.

    I now have the permission in writing (not that I’d expect any problems from either my friend or her dog. hee hee)

    This will probably be the first and last time I ever do this. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am not at all surprised to see that many of your characters are based on people that you have known; many of mine are BASED on people I know or have known, but generally not everything about a particular person.
    On the other hand, only ONE is put into a story so obviously this person and her background that I had to tell her,(I knew that she would not have a problem with it).
    Other THINK that they see themselves and aren’t happy about it, as I have posted before. Paranoia seems to run deep in the people I know. More tomorrow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      yes, I recall your previous mention of kinfolk making assumptions.
      Eager to see what the Friday Fox has to say on this topic — especially since you were the one who suggested the topic.


  4. Patricia Kiyono says:

    How wonderful that you were able to give a copy of your book to Sgt. Hansford. I forgot to mention on Monday that I based an ice sculptor on a man in Grand Rapids (he and his crew starred in a reality show called “Ice Brigade”) and I would have loved to give him a copy of The Christmas Phoenix, since he graciously helped me so much with details of ice carving.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      When I took over that working manuscript — to show MSgt. Hansford — he took me on a tour of his basement collection. Mostly Native American relics, it also had several items from his WW2 combat experience. That included his M1 Garand rifle… and numerous decorations, including the Silver Star (which features in my novel).

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love that so many of those characters were based on real people you knew. Those are great books.

    Liked by 1 person

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