Putting People in Your Books

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This is a popular quote among authors and there seems to be a grand tradition of putting people in a book as ‘revenge’.  Yet there are times where someone is put into a book as an honor.  I tend to lean toward the latter because something about immortalizing someone I don’t like rubs me the wrong way.  Being put into Windemere is special as far as I’m concerned because it’s allowing someone into my world.  This doesn’t happen often, but I have some instances:

  1. The Champions and some allies–  Given that several heroes are from the other players in the game, they are in there.  This includes Nimby, Fritz, Aedyn, Fizzle, Nyx, Sari, Delvin, Timoran, and anyone played by the DM.  Rather explanatory.
  2. Queen Ionia–  This character was originally Queen Tempest, but I had too many ‘T’ characters.  I needed a new name and went with one of my closet friends.  It was actually a coincidence that both had something to do with squirrels.
  3. Mayor Pam Learim & John Aneveom– These two minor characters appear in Curse of the Dark Wind and are named after two fellow bloggers:  Pamela Beckford and John W. Howell.  This was done after my first Twubs chat in 2013 and they were the only two who showed up for it.  I was writing the book at the time and figured it would be a good thank you.  I did run it by them, but I’m not sure they remember.
  4. Future–  Just to avoid spoilers, I do have at least two more that are coming.  One is a thank you for helping with ideas for Nevra Coil in Book 8.  Another is a minor character in Book 9, which will show what happens if you bug me for too long about getting a character named after you.

I will admit that there are others I want to name characters after, but I haven’t find the right part for them.  It’s a delicate area for me because I don’t know how some people will take to certain characters.  Not every role is flattering and I have a habit of putting even minor ones through the wringer.  Thankfully I have plenty of series to work people into as time moves on.

I don’t know what else to think about on this topic, but I am curious to hear what people think of this.  Do you put people you know in your books?  Are you a vengeful author?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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47 Responses to Putting People in Your Books

  1. Sue Vincent says:

    Awkward. I put late family members into the characters of Sword of Destiny because they typified the old Yorkshire character. On the other hand, as the books Stuart and i write are based on fact we are very careful how we handle those charcaters who share the adventure with us as they are friends. It does mean you have to be very careful in how they are portrayed, of course!

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  2. hpetty42 says:

    This is interesting. The second question people ask when they know I’m writing a book is, “am I in it?” The answer is, sort of. I tend to blend characteristics of people I know to create new characters. People will find what they want to find. I just hope they like the characters!

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  3. Fun topic! Let’s see … I do draw inspiration from people I know for names. For example, Eris attends the Barlow Collegiate Institute, which is named after my best friend. In Chasing Nonconformity, I took my friend’s name and shifted it around slightly to sound more alien. Etc. The characters and places being named after my friends are nothing like them, of course — I’m just borrowing and immortalizing their names. I think they appreciate it … maybe I should check, lol.

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  4. Rachel says:

    I put people in my books, but in honorable ways like you said. I think you should also be subtle about it, too. You never know what people might nit-pick.

    I also put people I know in my novels without realizing it. For example, the first novel I ever wrote was written in diary format and for the prologue I used birthdays of people I knew for the entry dates. I didn’t know anyone with a birthday in August so I picked a date at random. The main male character had a certain appearance about him and his homeroom teacher at school was Mr. Joel. A few months later, I met someone new at work and guess what? He looked exactly like my main character, his middle name is Joel, and his birthday was the August date I picked. It was strange.

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  5. I don’t do that, but I did use celebrity cameos in Panama.

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  6. I’ve always seen myself as Mayor 😉

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  7. One of my critique partners names streets and objects after the people in our group. I have been a medicine and a street so far. I have named ships and businesses after my writing buddies.

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  8. sknicholls says:

    My book is filled with people I knew or know. A fictionalized true story could not avoid that. My dad thought I did well to describe him but wasn’t thrilled that I used his insurance company’s name as his last name because people are always calling him Mr. Hamilton, when that’s not his real name. I’m using it anyway, in another book. He’s too old to chase me down and spank me now.

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  9. Charles Lominec says:

    I’ve based some of my characters off real people (friends and family), but I alter the name so as not to be completely obvious. I don’t do revenge characters. I don’t want to have to deal with the drama if someone should find out that a despicable character is based on them.

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  10. I don’t put real people into my fiction. I especially don’t write “revenge” characters.

    My clone thinks we should write our beta reader in as a minor character in the latest WIP, though: “Ask Greg if he’d like to die horribly in The Madness Engine,” he said.

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  11. Those are great tributes to bestow on someone…they should be honored. 🙂

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  12. Oloriel says:

    I think this would be a delightful tribute, and I too do it. I am not vengeful, but I never leave the role of a writer and the situations I put the characters in are not always pretty.

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  13. I’d be more inclined to put them in the acknowledgments. 🙂 But at the very least, I would run it by them before honoring them with their own character.

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  14. I do remember (excuse the delayed response. Some idiot cut the phone line to the island and I have had no internet since yesterday morning) and thank you for including me. I also am a knight (Sir Howell) in another author’s series. Feels good to be living an adventure. Thanks Charles

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  15. L. Marie says:

    Now I’m thinking of Taylor Swift songs. 🙂
    I sometimes add people I know in books, especially if I ghostwrote a book. I add names of people I know to prove I wrote the book. In my current book, I named some trees after my advisors. But I haven’t named any evil characters after anyone I know. 🙂

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  16. Names have always been a stopper for me. They have to be just right. if I don’t sit down and generate names before I begin writing, it can totally kill my momentum to stop and think of names. So I was well into the writing of my recent novel, and I realized I was going to have to name a whole bunch of characters — villagers, household staff, etc. So I started using names from kids at my school. First name or last name, never both together, because parents might object. And I still needed names (because the action moved to another village), so I used names from my gaming group. I trust they’ll be suitably flattered when they read it.

    For my next book? Who knows!

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    • Those spontaneous minor characters can be a sudden pain. I actually have 7-8 names that I plan on reusing once per series, but that doesn’t cover nearly enough. I thumb through newspapers or whatever I have on hand. Figure I can repeat on the really minor characters.

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  17. Ellespeth says:

    Just dropping by with a hello….I have a book on my ottoman right now – from a friend written by their friend and, unfortunatey, I’ve heard the wife in the book gets killed off and has characteristics of his first wife 😦 To read or not to read? That is the question, sigh.
    Hope most of the nasty weather has missed your area, Charles.
    Ellespeth

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  18. Coming from a small town where everyone knows not only you, but your great-grandfather, his chiropodist and where she bought her sausages, I tend to steer as far clear as I can from putting real people into my writing. I did put the dog in once though, in detail. But I made her bigger, and male, so I guess I had her fooled too.

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