A little more than a decade ago, I wrote my first novel. I had no idea if I was going to be able to finish it, or if it would ever end up in print. It turned out I enjoyed writing enough to finish the manuscript, and I went the route of self-publishing. Now, many years later, I am re-editing and publishing it piece-by-piece on my website (www.ajackmccarthy.com)as a blovel (no, this word is not in the dictionary).
I continued to write, and last year I published another novel, Betrayal, with Indigo Sea Press. Another book, another experience.
I certainly don’t consider myself a seasoned writer, but I think the subject of my discussion today may have been experienced by the large majority of writers.
When I wrote my first novel, in my innocence and ignorance, I decided it would be fun to create some of my characters using names and personalities of people I know. After all, it was likely no one would ever read it. But, people did read it, and many of those who knew me were able to pick out the significance of the names and the characters. Some people even went so far as to imagine significance when, in fact, there was none.
I learned my lesson. The second time around, I was extremely careful when naming my characters, and I went to great pains to make sure they didn’t closely resemble anyone I knew. That didn’t stop people from looking for connections. When they couldn’t find them among the characters, they looked for them among the places. Since Betrayal was set in my hometown and the surrounding area, they tried to guess whose house I was describing or where the cabin was situated. It was amusing to see people looking for clues which didn’t exist.
As I said, I’m fairly sure this is a common occurrence among writers.
Something which I am now experiencing are people asking to be a character in my next novel (don’t worry, Kenny and Tim, I won’t mention any names). Sometimes, they even would like to have specific roles. Perhaps, this is not so common. Maybe I simply have friends who want to be implicated. If they are looking to be famous, or infamous, whatever the case may be, they should perhaps try something different. I’m not likely to be the conduit for their fame. Besides, I like them just the way they are.
Sorry to disappoint, guys, but I’m not going to make the same mistake twice. It could lead to too many complications, and it restricts what my characters can do or not do. I don’t want to be tiptoeing around, trying not to hurt anyone’s feelings.
However, I’m curious to know, among the writers out there, if you use or avoid the use of names and characteristics of people you know. Do you have any stories to share? Do you have a few friends like mine?
A.J. McCarthy is the author of Betrayal, published by Indigo Sea Press.