Characters And Creative Control

Writers always get questions about their characters and whether or not they’re based on a real person, someone the author knows. The answer is often that the characters are a combination of personalities of different people the author knows. It’s definitely safer not to name names, but I have a few that I want to share.

In my Indigo Eady Paranormal Mystery series, my main character, Indigo Eady, is half English, half Native American. It was no accident that she shares a last name and characteristics (black hair, blue eyes, similar ancestry) with my grandmother, Juanita Gwendolyn Eady. My grandmother was Scotch-Irish and Cherokee. Having raised my sister and me a lot of the time, she was a big influence in my life. I wanted to honor her, and that was the best way I knew how. I also have a church in Givin' Up The Ghost named after my mom, and a bartender with the name and physical attributes of my dad.

Now take my character Badger, the love interest of Indigo Eady. I knew he had to be cute, but a little scruffy. And real; kind and tough, but with a little hot-headedness in order to get by in the world. He had to be like Sam (Jared Padalecki) on Supernatural.
Then there’s Chance, from A Guilty Ghost Surprised. He’s a ghost dog that hangs out at a haunted mansion to protect the ghostly owner, who can't move on. The character Chance is based on my daughter’s real life dog, also named Chance. Of course I sought her permission to use Chance in the role. It might have been strange to see your dog on the cover of a book, not to mention between the pages, as a ghostie.

Luckily, I have an awesome illustrator, Corona Zschusschen, who understands my quirkiness with such things as putting my granddog on the cover of my book, and making Badger look like the hunky Sam.
Check out the likenesses from A Guilty Ghost Surprised on the left, compared to the photos on the right:
Jared Padalecki photo courtesy of Creative Commons
The illustration of Badger is uniquely him, but with the similar facial features of Jared Padalecki. Much as I'd like Jared/Sam on my cover, there could be some copyright issues if the likenesses were too similar.
With the illustration of Chance, I had no copyright worries. As you can see, it's completely Chance, facial features and all.
Creative control of this sort is the best part of being an indie author; we can put loved ones in our books and on the covers.
What about you?
Do you base characters on
people (or pets) you know?


  1. Oh, I love these illustrations! I named a character in Polar Night after my pets and I can't resist including animals in my stories. I've also had actors in mind while writing characters but those copyright issues do get in the way LOL.
    It was interesting to learn more about your influences!

  2. I use personality traits more than physical likenesses. Hetty's personality was based on several people I know with a healthy dose of M. Pax creativity in the mix.

    I usually use real photos to help me visualize characters and places. Pinterest is a great time suck for that. lol

  3. The illustrations are awesome!

    I had that questions asked of me recently. I didn't really know what to say. It depends on the story. Some characters are loosely based off people I know. Others come fully formed with their own personalities and such. I didn't have to look for them, so to speak.

  4. Great illustrations. I definitely use personality traits of people I know, people I see when people watching, etc., and just thinking about how I would be if I were in the situation my characters are in. And I've used my dog in two MG stories as well. :)

  5. Thanks, Julie. Isn't it fun to put your pets in books. It sort of immortalizes them, LOL.

    Mary, I'd like to start using Pinterest to help with those visuals, but I have so many other time sucks already!

    Cherie, I didn't actively look for real people to sub as characters, it just sort of happened. I might in the future, though. Real people are just so quirky - and not just me, LOL.

    Kimberly, isn't it fun to use your dogs in books?

  6. How fascinating. Thank you. As a reader I am always intrigued by where characters/events spring from, and what triggered that particular alchemy...

  7. E.C., Not sure how I thought of it, but once I did, I had so much fun with it. I emailed photos of Chance to my illustrator and she just ran with it.

  8. Ooh, now I love Badger even more that he looks like Sam Winchester! :) Your illustrator did an amazing job. I sometimes base characters on traits or quirks from people I know, but never totally on someone.

  9. Team Sam, right, Christine? Yeah, it makes me like Badger more, too. I'm completely addicted to Supernatural right now. I even bought a few books :)

  10. I think it's so sweet how you wanted to honor your grandmother through one of your characters!

    Some of my characters share traits of those I know, but most of the time, I just give them a random trait I have and amp it up to eleven, haha.

  11. I've used pets. Like you, most of my characters are a collage of people I know and imagination. I do have one character in a contemporary romance who is based on my brother--I lost him a couple of years ago but it's a nice remembrance of him altho he read and loved the story before he died. :-)

    Gotta love Chance!
    Sia McKye Over Coffee

  12. Thanks, Heather. I just loved my grandma so much. She wasn't a psychic like my character, though. Indigo's psychic abilities are way amped up, LOL!

    Sia, that's awesome. It's fun to immortalize those we love :)

  13. Cute dog! I use aspects of people I know, and combine. Or else I give them attributes that I am interested in taking a closer look at. Like Ruby had a lot of inappropriate attention from older men in the cult when she was young, so when she was a teen, she had to learn how to have healthy communication with guys she liked. She also had to overcome drug addiction. I never grew up in a cult, but I've known people who dealt with all of these issues.


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