Dina Friedman's Monthly Writing Advice
Vol. 1 # 10, April 2002 - Real Characters in Fiction
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THIS MONTH'S TIP: REAL CHARACTERS IN FICTION
I want to write a novel based on my eccentric great aunt Grace, but
if she recognizes herself, she'll leave me out of her will. And
unless this book makes big time, I'll need the money. What should I
Dear Poor Boy,
If you want to eventually be a rich boy, you'll need to make a clear
leap between fact and fiction. Make Aunt Grace a man in a different
town, several years younger if possible. Do whatever you can to
change the story you want to tell. Rather than thinking about thinly
disguising the character or the facts, ask yourself what the real
lessons are that you want people to learn from Aunt G., and turn as
much inside out as you possibly can. Of course, there's still a
chance she might recognize the truth behind your fictional words, and
you might still lose out on your inheritance, but who knows, your
book might become a best seller, and at least she won't be able to
sue you for libel.
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Dina Friedman, M.S.W., has worked with
individuals and groups on issues for thirteen years. A
published fiction writer, poet, playwright, and journalist
and winner of several awards and honors, she coordinates
academic writing workshops for Mount Holyoke College. She
has taught rhetoric, English Comp, and creative writing at
the University of Massachusetts, Holyoke Community College,
and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
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