Character vs. Family (Lauren Bjorkman)

Basing a character in a novel on a friend or family member is not the best idea fraught with perilous peril. I’m not exaggerating. Every time I consider it, I remind myself about the downsides—possible hurt feelings and intensely awkward Thanksgiving gatherings from the date of publication until eternity.

Imagine the horror of borrowing a few details from a person’s life, but not all of them:

Yeah, Dad, you’re right. The dad in my book flies model airplanes like you do, has a mustache that twirls up at the ends like yours, and trekked across Tibet in his youth like you did, but my fictional dad is a jerk, which you are NOT. He totally isn’t you, okay?

So I make up most my characters, but sometimes I love to draw inspiration from a near stranger that I’ve enjoyed watching. I can visualize the person in my mind while I write, but am not confined by his or her true nature. I did this for Roz in My Invented Life—created Roz based on a young woman with unself-conscious high energy and intense joy for life, someone I’d watched off and on for two years. I’ll call her G.

Roz ≠ G

Still, long after My Invented Life came out, I ran into G and confessed to her that she’d inspired the main character in my book. After that I gave her a copy, and avoided her like dirty dishes in the sink. What if she hated it? Or much worse, found it insulting. After all, Roz is one crazy flawed girl (loveable, too).

Luckily G enjoyed the book. In fact, she told me that Roz and Eva’s sister relationship reminded her eerily of her own. *Twilight Zone theme music* Maybe I saw deeper than I thought I did?


  1. I would like to meet this G of yours. I just finished My Invented Life and I'd love to meet Roz-for-reals.


  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. LOL! G is totally delightful. If you ever come to Taos ...
    Glad you enjoyed My Invented Life

  4. Very cool! I kinda sorta not meaning to put some of my relationship with my dad into BALLADS and he totally called me out on it by saying, "Some of this sounds familiar..." I went "No, dad it's fiction. Didn't you read the author's note in the back?" Ah well.

  5. Little details have a way of sneaking in!


Post a Comment