People can't help but wonder when they have a friend who is an author: Am I in the story somewhere? Of course we use people we know for characters, otherwise everyone in the book would be just like the author.

You needn't fret, however, about looking bad or silly or pathetic. Like the children we create but can't control, once a character steps into a story he or she becomes a unique individual. I may want a character to do something brave, but if it isn't in him, he'll refuse, and the plot has to change to accommodate his natural cowardice. I may start out with a hero who's a lot like my husband, but he ends up his own man, with only traces of my husband's humor or stubbornness.

The same is true of villains. Of course we give them qualities of people we dislike, but they twist into unique patterms that don't sound like anyone we actually know. Sometimes my killers combine the worst traits of several horrible people I've had to deal with, but in order for them to be believeable, they also have to present other facets of character (unless they're downright demonic, which is a copout, IMO).

The interesting thing I hear from more established authors is that people don't recognize themselves in the book anyway. Two stories illustrate it: First, the voice of Porky Pig was modeled after a studio executive. The writers loved the voice, but they trembled at the thought that their boss would hear himself in the character and be angry that they had parodied him. His response when he heard Porky for the first time? "Great voice -- how did you ever come up with it?"

Closer to home, I remember a friend telling me that she loved Rosamund Pilcher's The Shell Seekers because her own daughter was so like the selfish one in the story. When she gave them all the book to read (with no commment, of course), all of the children recognized the similarity except the one who needed to see her mistreatment of those around her.

So if you're worried about becoming a character in my next novel, don't be. You wouldn't see yourself, and I can't control my clones anyway. They keep turning into somebody new.

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