How to make characters less like people you know

by Eve

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.

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