Dustin. Justin. Ziva. Lisa. Portia. Mercedes. Eddie. Freddie. Argh! One of my biggest pet peeves as a writer is not really disguising characters based on real-life friends, family, enemies, etc. I have no problem basing my characters from people I know, but I like to think I’m smart enough to disguise my characters with different names and physical attributes. TV characters who are writers — i.e. Tim McGee from NCIS and some guy from a now-cancelled show — base their book characters on people they know. Fine. I’m cool with that. My issue is McGee denied basing his book characters Tommy and Lisa on his co-workers, Tony and Ziva (he later admitted his guilt to using his co-workers’ characteristics).
I can’t remember the name of the now-cancelled show (that’s a complete lie — I know the name I just don’t want to reveal it because I’m a little embarrassed about my extensive knowledge of pop culture) about a handsome guy who found success with his first novel about his hometown. The guy’s high school best friend, Andy, was handsome but had a quick temper (this is all I really remember from the one or two episodes I watched), and the character, Randy, was ruggedly handsome and also had a quick temper. Argh! If you’re basing your characters on real people then be smart to disguise your characters or just own up that your friends are your source of inspiration.
Now that I type about my pet peeve I’m more upset about writers denying their friends, family, and enemies are the basis for their characters when clearly they are. I’m not 100% sure about the legality of defamation, but if I’m clearly using my sisters’ physical attributes and characteristics in my book and portraying them as manipulative and diabolical witches, don’t they have a right to sue me or something? I could totally deny my sisters aren’t the scheming and selfish piranhas in the book because they’re quite the opposite in real life. But if the readers believe my sisters are evil queens and their reputations are being dragged through the mud due to the book then they have a case, right?
Again, I’m not a lawyer, but to protect my tushy from lawsuits and angry friends and family, I disguise my characters pretty well (in my opinion). Of course, my really close friends can pick out which of my characters are based on them. Character description and certain events help them pinpoint my inspiration. But the reason why they’re my really close friends is they don’t care if I embellish their character traits and attributes or certain situations. My active imagination and my friends’ shenanigans inspire me to tell stories. Hmmmmmmm. I think I found a good story about a young nice girl with two snobby and selfish sisters …