How to make characters less like people you know

by Eve
(Ireland)

Question: I'm writing a novel and it's based on people and things that have actually happened to me but I don't want people to know its real and I want it to be a fictional novel. I've written a plan but when I read over it all that's different are the people's names... It's easy to know who is who if you know the situation I don't know how to change it around so that the things that have happened are different and don't seem like they actually happened so you wouldn't be able to tell the people in reality.


Answer: I'm guessing you actually know what needs to be done here, but are reluctant to do it.

With a story that is based on real life events, we have a tendency to cling to "what really happened." We want to tell the truth. The real people, the real events are what you are picturing in your mind and it's hard to let go of those images.

There's a well-known bit of advice to writers that states "kill your darlings." What this means is that any small aspect of your story that you are in love with -- whether it is a scene, a character, a location, an event, etc. -- should be discarded if it is not serving the greater interest of the story as a whole.

Unless you want to write biography or nonfiction, I suggest you let go of the real events that your story is based on. Forget about the real people who inspired it. Instead focus on creating a good story -- a better story than what happened in real life.

Make the characters more interesting. Make the events more interesting. Change one thing after another about them until you have a story that is completely original and a fantastic read.

Imagine your story is like city block that was built in the 19th century. Some people will look at such a block of buildings, fall in love with the architecture and history of them, and decide they need to be preserved for all time. Other people will look at them and decide the block needs to be modernized. They will want to renovate or tear down the buildings and build some new, modern, energy efficient skyscrapers in their place.

You want to be the second type of person. Use the real events as nothing but the foundation on which you will build an original story.

Best of luck.

Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Character Invite.


 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook


NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles


"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards



"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero