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Hi Susan-Real People as Characters?

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The Hi Susan e-mails are piling up so I thought I’d answer one today.

Jenny asked the following-

Is it okay to use real people as characters in your story?

While you want all your characters to be appear as close to real life people as possible, portraying someone that a real life person could recognize as themselves could land you in trouble. Someone might even sue you if you showed them in a negative light or revealed something personal that actually happened to them.

I’ve never had a specific person in mind when I’ve created characters but I might take a little of one person’s trait and blend it with another person’s, say quirk.

The first book I wrote The One and Only focused on a 12 year old boy and although he wasn’t based on a real life one, I actually used one element of his personality on my mom (and yes, she was okay with it). My mom had always been accident prone and I thought it would be something Brandon could deal with too.

My advice is to disguise a trait as best you can and don’t reveal anything personal that happened to a real life person even if it makes for a great story. You might think it will get you on the bestseller’s list but it could also land you in court and out of favor with your publisher.

When in doubt, always play it safe.

Hi Susan

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