Incorporating Someone You Know Into Your Novel

Christine Sneed

photo by Adam Tinkham

Whether or not you believe in that old cliche “Write what you know,” most fiction writers at one time or another are led to create characters who aren’t really fictional at all, but based on someone they know or have studied. Christine Sneed (@ChristineSneed) found herself in such a situation when writing a novel about an artist. She writes:

Within two weeks, I was visiting Susan’s studio … She is very modest about her work, despite its moody brilliance, and it wasn’t hard to introduce her into the narrative of Paris, He Said … What I spent more time thinking and worrying about was how I could make Susan the fictional character compelling in ways that kept the narrative moving forward.

Sneed goes onto explain the trickiness of including a friend as a character in one of her stories, and warns that if you can’t portray someone you know personally in a positive fashion, you will probably lose this friend and/or be sued for libel. Read more about her experience in the latest Glimmer Train bulletin.

For more writing advice from Glimmer Train writers, check out:

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Posted in Creativity + Inspiration and tagged , .

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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