When ﬁrst novelists start creating characters for their novels, most of them begin by picking out a half-dozen of their friends or family members and changing their names. Big mistake.
Real people make really lousy characters because you can’t change them. You can’t push them around. You can’t get them to do what you need them to do.
It is not a good idea to take real people, whole, and stuff them into your novel. The whole point of being an author is that your characters do what you tell them to do. That’s not true with real people. Basing your characters on real people is much too limiting for your work as a novelist because real people can never meet all your story needs. You need to create characters who will plausibly do what you need them to do.
Above all, the characters must actually work in the story you’re trying to tell. If you feel bound by the truth and you try to duplicate that real person precisely, it will hurt the story, every time. You shouldn't duplicate a real person because you probably don’t know this person as well as you think you do. After all, you’ll never be inside their brains, their memory or their soul. You don’t really know why they do the things they do.
That’s one thing about writing ﬁction that makes it radically different from living a real life; in real life, we never really know other people. However, with ﬁctional characters, we have the opportunity to know them as completely as we want to. We can know a character better than we can ever know a human being.
Fiction isn't reality. It's better. Because ﬁction is make-believe, it has to be more logical than real life if it is to be believed. Real people run your life. Characters allow you to run theirs. Remember that, as a novelist, you can make people do what you want them to do. So use your power.
Above from the book NOVEL SECRETS,
available for Kindle for only $.99 cents: