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Don’t Annoy the Writer

Sometimes people ask me if I ever base characters in my books on people in real life. Some people get really nervous around writers for this very reason.  They’re scared that the writer might put them in a book and that they might not like how they’re portrayed.  And it’s true that some writers have taken revenge on people by making terrible things happen to them in a story.

I think my mum might be slightly worried about this, because she bought me this mug for Christmas.


Sneakily, you can only really read what’s on the mug when you fill it with a hot drink, because then the background changes colour.


Ta-da! When the mug is filled with coffee, the words appear like magic.

I have put one real-life character in The Wishcatchers – but she’s only ever referred to and we never actually meet her.  Pupils at Corstorphine Primary school might recognise her, but shhh! Don’t tell anyone else.

In general though, I don’t put real life people in my books, even in a disguised form.  Many of my characters have bits of me in them or bits of people I know well or even have just met, but none of them are wholly based on a real person.  I might include events in my books that have happened to me or somebody else I know.  I might include bits of conversation that I’ve heard (or overheard) or use a way of standing or a habit I’ve observed, like shrugging or someone never quite coming to the point of what he wants to say.  But much of who my characters are and what they do comes out of my imagination.  I wonder what they would do if such and such a thing happened or how they would feel if someone said a certain thing to them.  My characters are a big mixture of things I’ve heard or seen or experienced, as well as things I’ve completely made up.

So don’t worry, I won’t put you in one of my books.  Although I can’t guarantee I won’t steal some of your words or one of you mannerisms…

  1. Mum
    January 22, 2016 at 11:35 pm

    I will know when a character is a mad, eccentric woman who goes out with hair rollers stuck to her clothing but is not worried about it if the colours match that it is I (please note the perfect grammar and be proud, dear daughter) x

    • January 24, 2016 at 6:34 pm

      So proud! And if you’ll excuse me, I have a great idea for a new story about a woman out in public with a stray curler on her jumper…

  2. January 23, 2016 at 6:39 am

    I think it’s a very rare person you could put in a book. Borrowing a few traits is one thing, but how could you actually get inside someone real that much and, if you did, they’d be incredibly unlikely to be like you wanted/needed them to be for your story.

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