Thursday, July 3, 2014
'Any resemblance to real persons...'
I’m sure almost every writer bases characters in their novels on aspects of their own personality and history, as well as on the personality and history of people they have met over the years. The disclaimer often found at the beginning of books makes me smile. ‘The characters and events in this book are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.’ Yeah, sure, right... So let’s see: Mrs Smith, the heroine’s neighbour, is a slightly porky, irritating woman who collects spoons. And it’s sheer coincidence that the author’s neighbour, when the author was growing up, was a slightly porky, irritating woman who collected porcelain elephants. Or was a stick thin, irritating woman who collected paper weights. However many details the author might change, we know that at some stage in her life she lived next door to an irritating woman who collected something. The fact that the character is irritating and has a propensity to collect things is no accidental coincidence.
I admit, from time to time, to fearing that some of my readers might think they recognise themselves in a character I have created. And the depiction of those characters is not always flattering, whether the less flattering aspects concern character traits or physical features. There’s not much I or any other writer can do about that. People are often odd. It is often their oddities that make them interesting. And it is often going to be those same oddities that make our literary creations interesting.
What I can say to those who think they identify themselves in one of my books is this. Each of my characters is constructed from bits and pieces of several real people. And the bits of these real life people are usually scattered among a range of characters. And, finally, there is a little bit of me in all the characters. I’m sorry if there is a fat person in my book, and someone thinks I am referring to them. I have met many overweight people in my life. The world is liberally peppered with largish folk. They are not going to be entirely absent from my literary world. Apologies if you think that irritating character bears a striking resemblance to you. First of all, though, it’s interesting that you yourself think you might be irritating. Top marks for insight. But you may be disappointed, because I have met many irritating people over the years. Everyone is irritating at some time and in some respect. I’ve been known to be irritating myself on occasion. If there is a one-legged, trampolining juggler in one of my books, and you think it’s you... Again, first of all, congratulations on your achievements. But rest assured that I have never met a one-legged, trampolining juggler. I think I would recall that. Nor have I seen one on Australia’s Got Talent. So it’s probably not you.
There may be the odd (in several senses) Anglican priest, or evolutionary biologist, in my books, but it’s probably not you. Or not only you. And certainly not entirely you. And he (or she) will most definitely have bits of me tossed in the mix.