Out of Character

“Has anyone ever asked you to add them to one of your stories?” -OR- “Have you told anyone that you were basing a character on them?”

My long-ago idea, and again, I forgot to make notes.

I have had people tell me that they would like to be a character, but so far, those requests have been avoided.

It’s not that I don’t want to add the people, it’s just that my stories are generally driven by: A) actual events,

B) the characters themselves,


C) characters don’t always cooperate.


I start off with a story in mind and the general idea usually stays while writing, but oh, man! Those little stinkers, the characters, usually have their own personalities and  have their own ideas.

I could be struck telling folks that the person based on them is, well, behaving differently than they themselves might, (and probably wouldn’t), so it was no longer based on them, (and then they would expect me to change them back. Non-writers don’t understand.)

Of course, there is the problem that if I did manage to truly base the characters on them that seldom do people have an accurate idea as to how they seem to other people, whether other people are writers or not.

So when,  “Would you make me a character in one of your stories?”, comes up, the answer is a general, “I’m sorry, but the characters usually pop up within the story”… unless it’s based a true story, and then I say,  “You ALMOST are, since I am writing a story based on when …”

I always say, “I am writing”, as opposed to “I have written”  to have a way to stop many of them from asking to read the story, complain and try to edit the work.

On the other hand, I have told someone that I was basing a character on her, but I have not been specific.  With her unique situation, anyone would know I was talking about this friend,  after all, how many people do you know whose family owns/owned most of a Caribbean resort island ? That person will certainly see herself when /if she reads on story, and being her, she will not be upset over the places that are not exactly like her life. I wanted to use a great deal about her and she is thrilled.

Nothing embarrasses this woman. Even though nothing is about my character is really shown in a bad light, telling some of what I did might not sit well with others; this young woman hides nothing; in fact, I watered it down a bit! Of course, I did not use her name.
Actually, that may upset her. But I needed the name to be changed, as you will see when you finally read it.

Others think that they see themselves being portrayed badly, when all I want to do is use part of a story akin to something that resembled a similar situation in which they had been involved.

They want conversations to be verbatim and it be an actual account of what transpired,

AND they’d like it to be from their own perspective. I get more of that, unfortunately, than people wanting to be characters.

People should be careful what they ask for.

I am not about to be let myself in for a threatening or “so disappointed” situation.

Perhaps the topic of : “If people have THOUGHT they have seen themselves in your stories and  how they reacted”, would be  more interesting.

I will name characters after people, though I have yet to do so in a bad light.
I may, in the future, use names as weapons or as a cathartic move, but so far, I have only used names in tribute.

I was happy when a novelist decided that she liked my name and used it for a character only mentioned once in her book. She did not then know me well, but I would have done what the character was going to do and I was very pleased.

I hope that people and even their pets, some of whom have graced these pages, will be happy to see characters named after them in my works.


About Tonette Joyce

Tonette was a once-fledgling lyricists-bookkeeper, turned cook/baker/restaurateur and is now exploring different writing venues,(with a stage play recently completed). She has had poetry and nonfiction articles published in the last few years. Tonette has been married to her only serious boyfriend for more than thirty years and she is, as one person described her, family-oriented almost to a fault. Never mind how others have described her, she is,(shall we say), a sometime traditionalist of eclectic tastes.She has another blog : "Tonette Joyce:Food,Friends,Family" here at WordPress.She and guests share tips and recipes for easy entertaining and helps people to be ready for almost anything.
This entry was posted in author's life, authors, big plans, Books, characters, dialogue, experiences, Family, friends, honors, imagination, inspiration, inspirational people, Life, lifestyles, memories, novels, pets, protagonists, reading, Tonette Joyce, tribute, What if, writers. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Out of Character

  1. jbrayweber says:

    From time to time, I might name a character after someone, but only as a secondary character that will not have their own story. As you said, characters don’t always behave. I wouldn’t want a real life person either getting upset by what the character does, but more importantly, I don’t want my perceptions/opinions/ideas/perspective of that person influencing the character themselves.
    Now, that said, I did once named a bad character after someone who had done me wrong. Just tweaked the spelling. The character died. Oops.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Patricia Kiyono says:

    I named a character based on the time period. It just happened to be the name of someone connected to my family, and since the story took place near where she’d once lived, everyone assumed I named the character after her. I actually hadn’t, and to me the character is nothing like her, but she was pleased so I didn’t correct them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • SOMEONE is probably going to have a name in a book that is like another person’s. Even past guest and mutual friend of Jeff’s, Lynn Shurr, told me that one of her books has a “Tonette”, but that was before she met me, (anmd she apologized that it was not a nice person!)


    • SOMEONE is going to have the same name as about any character in a book, let’s face it. Even past guest and mutual friend of Jeff’s, Lynn Shurr, told me that she named a character in one of her books’ Tonette”, and even though it was before she met me, she apologized that it was not a nice person.
      There are probably more, but at least we know there are two characters with my crazy, odd name.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Jeff Salter says:

    Love the comment, “seldom do people have an accurate idea as to how they seem to other people.”
    I run into that a LOT — individuals who somehow imagine they’re “all that and a bag of chips” (to borrow an old expression). Whereas, they’re more often just a pain in the keester.
    One of the things that surprised me about being a supervisor and having to conduct evaluations of employees: the ones who thought most highly of themselves… tended to be the employees I felt were the poorest performers. Conversely, the workers I highly valued (for attitude and output) tended to rate themselves lower than I rated them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve experienced the same thing, Jeff. It seems that the higher someone’s evaluation of themself is, the less they try to do their best at anything. And their attitudes always show it. Ego. Such a small word for such a big problem. LOL In my writing, I tend to save the egos for my villains. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Isn’t that a fact about employees, co-workers, and even bosses!
      Even in relating incidents PRECISELY, I will get arguments when someone claims to have the idea, spoken up first, sprung into action, etc. Not to mention the “I never said that”.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This may sound odd to most of you because I’m not a nationally well-known author. However, when I name a character, I make sure I’ve done my research on how popular the name is before I actually settle on it in a story. The more popular the name, the more used it is, the better to avoid issues with people saying I put them into a book.

    For example, I had planned to name the heroine in my novella Alexa. Then I started thinking about the brand name, Alexa. While having dinner at the ACFW writers conference, even though it is a popular name for a girl today, I asked Steve Laube, from the Steve Laube Agency, what he thought about using the name for my character. He advised me to change it to avoid any complications or legal issues down the road. I did. Her name is now Alanna.

    When I decided to base one of my character in my new WIP (actually two names, one of my friend and the other her pet), along with some of her characteristics and places of travel, I first asked her if she would mind. Like I mentioned in an earlier blog on 4F1H, I got her agreement in writing (along with her “I’d be honored” and “as long as you don’t make me a serial killer” statement) via email and printed it out to add to my paperwork for that story. Not that I expect the story to be on the best seller list, or I expect trouble from her. But you never know what will happen down the road. I’ve done the same on pictures I’ve used of people for book covers or book trailers.

    As Arnie pointed out, my friends are not the ones to worry about, but some day, should they pass away, you could be dealing with their family members on an issue. I’d rather take due diligence, so I have the proof that the person I’m basing a character on has given me permission to do so.

    If I don’t want to get the permission from a character, for whatever reason, I don’t use that person’s name, description, or personality. Character’s are much more interesting to me if they are a composition of traits, actions, and descriptions all rolled into one. This is probably why I have all kinds of readers tell me they see themselves in my characters.

    But that’s just me. We all have to do what we think best for our stories. Just thought I’d give you my two cents worth. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s almost impossible to avoid using other people’s names, Sharon, as I answered above to Patty.
      Unless you are relating a true, direct story which will reflect badly on someone’s character, (someone alive or their direct descendants), I don’t see a problem. After all, there is nothing new under the Sun. Change the name, change a few specifics and no one can say a word.


  5. Lucy Kubash says:

    I’ve never had anyone ask to be in one of my books, but I have had people say, hey, I have a great idea for a book you should write. My answer, why don’t you write it? I have enough ideas of my own!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Excellent reply! Although I have to admit that my grandson came to me several years ago with an idea, but said that he didn’t know how to write it. He had been writing stories for many years,but since this involved a married couple, at 13 (then), he knew that it was out of his element. I been working on it.
      Thank you for coming in and taking the time to comment, Lucy!


  6. I like the idea of naming characters after people. I think it is a great way to show them that you appreciate them without having to commit to creating a character that mirrors them.

    Liked by 1 person

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