On Using Friends as Character Inspiration

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been basing characters that I create off of friends, family, and basically anyone else I’ve ever met. Rarely are the characters meant to be exact replicas of the people they were inspired by, but it does happen sometimes. (Namely in that early teens series I wrote about my friends and me… They were bad, and every so often, my husband — who was one of the friends involved — enjoys holding it over my head.)

What’s more fun, though, is reading about how different authors did this with each other, as is the case for two of my all-time favorites: JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis.

While they had their differences, the duo were friends for quite a while and spent plenty of time discussing their ideas with each other and the rest of the Inklings. Inevitably, this means that they ended up incorporating each other into their own works.

Lewis wrote Tolkien as the protagonist of his Space Trilogy, Dr. Ransom. While all three books in the trilogy are great, Out of the Silent Planet is a definite must. And while it might not be a well-known book now (though it did make it into a science fiction class at the university I attended… it was always full, so I never did get to do it), Tolkien added Lewis to one that everyone knows: The Lord of the Rings. Some of his mannerisms and his style of speaking were embodied in Treebeard.

If you want to read more about Tolkien and Lewis, check out the original article I found here.

Do you know of any authors who wrote about each other? What’s your favorite character based on someone you really know?

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4 responses to “On Using Friends as Character Inspiration

  • homedreamer07

    I had no idea they wrote each other into their stories! How fascinating. I guess it’s not really surprising when I think about it, but wow.

    • S.B. Roberts

      I hadn’t thought much of it either until the most recent time I read Lewis’ Space Trilogy. I thought one of the sidekicks was Tolkien (because he sounded so Tolkien-ish), but then I decided to look it up. Who knew?

  • Anthony Lee Collins

    I didn’t know that about Lewis and Tolkien. That’s great to think about. It’s been too long since I read the space trilogy.

    I started by using people I know in the way you describe. There were two major characters in my first novel based on an ex-girlfriend of mine.

    More recently, I mostly haven’t done that. Mystery stories just require too many characters, I suppose (victim, killer, suspects, red herrings, etc.), and I don’t know that many people. Now I just make them up. :-)

    • S.B. Roberts

      It’s always good to hear that other people have read the Space Trilogy. Evidently, it was very popular when it came out, but most of the time, all I think of is Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, or one of his apologetic works when I think of him. Ooh, or Until We Have Faces. That was a great one too.

      I can see how you’d run out of people quickly with mysteries. In the ones of yours that I’ve read, I think I’d run out of people pretty quickly too! :)

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